Tuesday, January 12, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville wins at North Pulaski

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville’s coach was frustrated with his team’s lack of focus. North Pulaski’s coach was frustrated with officiating. In the end, Jacksonville pulled away from North Pulaski for a 72-41 victory Friday night at the Falcons’ Nest in Jacksonville.

Jacksonville raced out to a big lead, pushing the margin to double digits with 2:35 left in the first quarter when a three-quarter court alley-oop pass from DaJuan Ridgeway to LaQuawn Smith made the score 15-4. Before Ridgeway’s pass, he hit three-consecutive 3-pointers to lead the Red Devils’ big lead. Jacksonville finished the opening period up 20-5, and the game was played pretty evenly, though largely uneventful, for the next two quarters.

One of the most interesting points of the game was a third-quarter exchange of words between JHS coach Vic Joyner and NP coach Roy Jackson. With is team clawing to stay in the game and tired of his protests falling on the deaf ears of officials, Jackson turned towards Joyner.

“You know he fouled him,” Jackson said to Joyner.

“You’re right,” Joyner responded. “He did foul him, but what do you want me to do?”

Jackson replied. “They don’t even want it to be a good game. They just want to go home early.”

The conversation came after the second of two obvious fouls that weren’t called on Jacksonville. The first came early in the third when North Pulaski’s James Robinson drove by Jacksonville’s Tyree Appleby, who simply grabbed a handful of the back of Robinson’s jersey and slowed his progress toward the lane.

The second came when Braxton McKinney got into the lane and drew much contact on a shot attempt.

After the game, Jackson didn’t focus on officiating, and instead gave credit to the Red Devils.

“I thought tonight we took care of the ball a lot better than we did the last game,” Jackson said. “But the second half, Jacksonville came out and really amped up their defense and there wasn’t much we could do about it. We don’t really have a true point guard and that makes it tough when an athletic team like Jacksonville starts putting pressure on you. We’ve got to find a way to slow things down. Once we got into a half-court situation I thought we executed pretty well.”

Jacksonville led 31-15 at halftime and 47-28 at the end of the third quarter, and then broke the game wide open in the fourth quarter. Jacksonville’s Harderrious Martin invoked the mercy rule with a 3-pointer with 1:01 remaining in the game that also set the final margin.

It was the second game in conference play for both 5A Central teams and the first win for the Red Devils, Joyner wasn’t entirely pleased with his team’s performance.

“I thought we were lackluster,” Joyner said. “We’re having too many mental mistakes. They play good when they’re threatened, but they need to come out with some fire. The button is going to have to be pushed by them, not by me or the situation. The button shouldn’t be pushed by the score, or by North Pulaski. The button should be pushed by them.”

One notable exception to Joyner’s critique was post player Chris Williams, and Joyner noticed it, too.

“Chris plays that way every day, in practice the whole time,” Joyner said. “If everybody would match his intensity, we’d be a lot better. He knows one speed.

“We finally got Appleby playing. For whatever reason he was in a mental funk tonight, at least in the first half. We challenged him at halftime to come on and play, and once he did the game was over. He’s got to learn to play at a high level all the time. At the next level especially you’ve got to have that mental toughness every day. If you don’t make it an every-day habit, you’re going to get nights like this, and then you’re not going to play.”

Smith led Jacksonville with 18 points, and added seven rebounds and five assists to his stat line. Ridgeway and Appleby each finished with 12 points. Williams added 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Red Devils.

Sophomore post player Christian White came off the bench to lead North Pulaski with 12 points and six rebounds.

Jacksonville faced Mills on Tuesday and will be at Beebe on Friday. North Pulaski played another rivalry game at Sylvan Hills on Tuesday, and will travel to No. 1 ranked J.A. Fair on Friday. Look for details of Tuesday’s games in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.