Wednesday, December 16, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils finish strong

Leader sports editor

FAYETTEVILLE – Jacksonville went 1-2 at the Bulldog Invitational, losing two close games Thursday and Friday before beating Springfield-Hillcrest 72-56 on Saturday.

On Thursday, Jacksonville opened the tournament with an overtime loss to the Lee’s Summit West of Missouri. On Friday, the Red Devils had a rematch with Hot Springs, a team Jacksonville beat 57-54 last Monday. On Friday, the Trojans held on for a 55-54 victory when Jacksonville failed to get two shots to fall at the end of the game. Just like on Thursday, Hot Springs’ game-winning shot came on a putback after an offensive rebound.

It’s a problem Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner knew his small team would have this year, but still laments how the games were lost.

“If we had anybody with a little height that could go up and rebound, we would have won that thing, or at least played in the finals,” said Joyner. “And I don’t blame my kids. They were boxing out just like you teach them. Those big dudes were just going up over the top of us. They weren’t fouling. They were just so much longer than us they could get to it at a higher point.

“We just have to find a way to deal with it. We’re going to have to work on boxing out, and then walking them out. But the kids played hard, man. I got no problem with how we went up there and performed.”

Jacksonville had to battle back from an eight-point deficit late in the third quarter against Hot Springs. Tyree Appleby hit a short jumper with about a minute remaining that gave the Red Devils their first lead of the second half. Hot Springs then missed an outside jumper, which is what Joyner was hoping for. But Trojan Xavian Christon went up high for the putback that ended up being the game winner.

Appleby finished with a game-high 23 points while Braylin James and LaQuawn Smith each scored 10. Christon led Hot Springs with 19 while Paris Harris and Trey Lenox added 10 apiece for the Trojans.

In Saturday’s game, the first half was a tale of two quarters. The Red Devils dominated the first quarter before Hillcrest came back to pull within 27-26 by halftime. The Red Devils won the third quarter 21-14, but there would be no comeback in the fourth. Jacksonville outscored Hillcrest 24-16 in that period to win the game going away.

Smith and James scored 15 apiece to lead Jacksonville on Saturday. Appleby scored 12 and post player Chris Williams added 10 for the Red Devils (7-3).

Jayson Sydnor led all scorers with 19 points while Cole Pryor scored 12 for Hillcrest.

Jacksonville is off until Monday when it plays in the McDonald’s Red Devil Classic.

This year’s Classic has a heavy local flavor, including every team from within Jacksonville city limits.

The two days of games begins at 4 p.m. Monday when the Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School girls take on Pine Bluff Dollarway. The North Pulaski boys follow at 5:15 p.m. against Little Rock Central. The Jacksonville girls take on Clarendon at 6:30 p.m. and the JHS boys face Lighthouse at 7:45.

On Saturday, Clarendon plays Dollarway at 4 p.m. before the North Pulaski and Lighthouse boys play at 5:15. The Lighthouse girls play JHS and the Red Devil boys close the event against Little Rock Central.