Wednesday, December 23, 2015

SPORT STORY >> JHS girls win two at home in Classic

Leader sports editor

The Lady Red Devils added two wins to their ledger in the first week of the Christmas break and final games before conference play begins Jan. 5. The Jacksonville girls defeated Clarendon 68-64 on Monday in their opening game of the McDonald’s Red Devil Classic. On Tuesday, they hammered Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School 83-12 to improve to 5-8 on the season.

Jacksonville coach Crystal Scott went with a different starting lineup against Clarendon than in most games this season, and it proved effective early. Senior Emily Lovercheck scored a layup off the opening tip to give the Lady Devils a quick lead.

Jacksonville advanced that margin to 6-2 before Clarendon began to heat up from the floor. J’Tyia Thomas scored five-straight points to give the Lady Lions a 7-6 lead, and forced Scott to go with wholesale substitutions. Four of the five players that entered the game were regular starters.

The only regular starter on the floor at the opening tip was junior Taylor Toombs, and senior Alicia Sims replaced her. The second five didn’t fare much better right away. Clarendon continued its run and extended its lead to 14-6, and forced Scott to call a timeout with 2:51 left in the first quarter.

After the timeout, Jacksonville senior Tatiana Lacy ended the scoring drought with an offensive rebound and putback that made it 14-8 with 2:20 on the clock. After a defensive stop, senior Desiree Williams made a long 3-pointer, and then another to tie the game with a minute to go in the first period.

Clarendon added a bucket and took a 16-14 lead into the second quarter, but it didn’t last long. Jacksonville senior Asiah Williams got back-to-back steals and layups to put the Lady Devils up 18-16 just 33 seconds into the second quarter.

The two teams went back-and-forth for several minutes, with Thomas and Taya Draper doing all of the scoring for Clarendon. The Lady Lions took a 26-25 lead with 2:30 left in the half, but Jacksonville responded with a 7-0 run over the next 2:18 of play. That gave the host team a 32-26 lead with 12 seconds left in the half, but the Lady Lions responded quickly, scoring four quick points of JHS turnovers and going into halftime trailing by just two.

Jacksonville controlled most of the action in the third quarter, but shots weren’t falling. The Lady Red Devils made up for the shooting struggles by dominating the boards. With two minutes left in the third, Jacksonville had built the biggest lead of the game up to that point at 44-36. Even though it only managed one free throw the rest of the period, Jacksonville’s defense was strong, and the Lady Devils still took a 45-36 lead into the fourth.

A quick bucket made it an 11-point game early in the final quarter, and the two teams traded buckets to 54-43 with 5:30 left in the game. That’s when Clarendon began a furious comeback attempt. The Lady Lions went on an 10-2 run that made it 56-53 with 2:24 remaining. Jacksonville scored again when Alexis James hit the first of two free throws. Lacy got the rebound of the second miss. She was also fouled and hit 1 of 2 to make the score 58-53.

Draper then hit 1 of 2 foul shots at the other end. Jacksonville responded when Desiree Williams missed a runner, and Lacy got the offensive putback for a 60-54 lead with 1:43 remaining.

The Lady Red Devils then made a tactical mistake by fouling on the inbound pass after Lacy’s basket. Draper hit both ends of a one-and-one trip to the line to cut the margin to four. Jacksonville’s good ball movement and offensive execution resulted in Desiree Williams all alone underneath the basket, but Lacy’s pass from the wing sailed over her head. Thomas then went the length of the floor for a layup that made it 60-58 with a minute to go. James answered with the same thing, making it a four-point game again just eight seconds later.

Thomas then drained a 3-pointer to pull the Lady Lions to within 62-61 with 39 seconds left. Jacksonville executed again, and this time James’ pass to a wide-open Sims made it 64-61, but Draper hit a baseline jumper to make it a one-point game again with 22 seconds remaining. Clarendon quickly fouled James, who hit the first of two free throws. Lacy then came through with another big offensive rebound, and stuck it back in for a 67-63 lead with 15 seconds remaining.

Lacy finished with a double-double, recording 15 points and 12 rebounds, both team highs. Lovercheck scored a season high 12 points, Asiah Williams had 11 and Desiree Williams scored 10.

Thomas led all scorers with 29 points while Draper added 23 for Clarendon. Jacksonville won the rebounding battle 43-30.