Friday, February 05, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Devils change their scheme, confuse Bruins

Leader sports editor

Early on, it appeared another 5A-Central superstar was going to shoot Jacksonville into another home loss Tuesday at JHS, but a defensive adjustment helped the Red Devils recover and earn a crucial 69-53 victory over Pulaski Academy.

Jacksonville scored the first four points of the game, but Pulaski Academy’s Tulsa signee Lawson Korita led a run that put the Bruins up 12-6 and forced a Red Devil timeout. Jacksonville scored out of the break but Korita made a 3-pointer that made it 15-8 before Jacksonville began to take back some control.

The Bruins led 17-16 at the end of the first quarter, and Korita had 11 of those points, including 3 for 4 shooting from 3-point range. Connor Parr also hit a 3-pointer for PA in the first period.

That’s when Jacksonville’s defensive strategy began to take effect.

“We changed our philosophy a little bit on how to defend their screen and roll,” said Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner. “I think that confused them for a while and we were able to create some turnovers once we got settled into the game. That first quarter, he (Korita) was just stepping back off the screen and popping threes. When he’s hot like that, there ain’t anything you can do. But guys usually aren’t going to keep hitting everything, and I think we got into their legs a little bit with our defense.”

After the first quarter, Korita went 0 for 7 from long range, but still finished with 25 points. PA led 23-20 with five minutes left in the half when Korita took a seat on the bench for a rest. Jacksonville made the most of the opportunity, going on an 8-0 run and taking a five-point lead with 2:35 to play.

It started with a nice penetrate-and-dish from Bralyn James to Chris Williams. Harderrious Martin then got a steal and assist to Tyree Appleby for a transition layup. LaQuawn Smith then found Appleby streaking to the basket along the baseline for a layup, and Appleby got a steal and another layup to give Jacksonville a 28-23 lead.

Korita came back in the game after PA’s second timeout, but Jacksonville continued to control the action. The Bruins went six-straight possessions without a shot attempt. James scored with 2:05 left in the half and freshman post player Joe Phillips made it 32-23 with 1:15 left in the half with a putback of an Appleby miss.

Korita scored his only two points of the second quarter at the free-throw line with 17 seconds on the clock to set the halftime score at 32-25.

The two teams traded baskets the first five minutes of the third. Jacksonville took its first double-digit lead on a short alley-oop pass from a penetrating Appleby to a baseline-running Smith that made it 44-33.

The Bruins battled back to within eight points, but James closed the third quarter with the Red Devils’ first and only 3-pointer to make the score 51-40 going into the fourth quarter.

Rico Lindsey answered for PA (15-6, 6-2) with a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter, but Jacksonville scored the next six points in a row.

One key play in the run was Phillips’ rebound after two missed free throws by Smith. Phillips missed, but Smith got that rebound and scored for a 55-43 lead. Korita dribbled the ball off his leg on the ensuing possession, and Appleby got to the rim for a layup that made it 57-43 with 6:20 remaining.

Jacksonville then suffered three-straight turnovers and PA scored after each one, again making it an eight-point game with 4:56 left and forcing Joyner to use another timeout.

James hit one of two free throws after a long Jacksonville possession, and Jacksonville again got the offensive rebound. Appleby then went to the line and hit two foul shots that made it 60-49 with 4:20 to play.

PA began to foul to extend the game, but Jacksonville made 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch to keep the Bruins at a distance.

The win was particularly important for the Red Devils (13-7, 4-3), who are still in fourth place despite the win over the previous outright league leaders.

PA, Mills and J.A. Fair are all 6-2 atop the Central standings. Jacksonville is alone in fourth while Sylvan Hills and McClellan are 4-4. PA has beaten McClellan and the other two teams tied for first, and lost to JHS and Sylvan Hills.

“Anybody can beat anybody in this league,” Joyner said. “It doesn’t matter who you play or where. This was huge because a loss tonight would’ve put us three games behind them. The final standings in this conference are going to go down to the last night.”

Korita’s 25 led all scorers while Parr added 13 points and rebounds for the Bruins. Smith led Jacksonville with 17 points and six rebounds. Appleby had 16 points and five assists. James added 12 for the Red Devils.

Jacksonville shot 43 percent from the floor (22 of 53 overall), but only 1 of 10 from 3-point range. The Red Devils were 22 of 31 from the free-throw line and dominated on the boards, outrebounding the Bruins 30-18.

PA shot well, too, hitting 40 percent of its 45 shot attempts, and went 12 for 15 from the free-throw line.