Wednesday, February 24, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> JHS falls but gets in state tourney

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville basketball teams suffered a 5A-Central sweep at the hands of Pulaski Academy on Friday in Little Rock. The boys’ team had already qualified for the state tournament, but had a chance to better its seeding with a win over the Bruins. Instead the Red Devils endured their worst shooting night of the season and lost 52-49.

The Lady Devils had also qualified for state, but the seeding from the conference could not have been changed no matter Friday’s outcome. Still, the 55-28 final wasn’t a performance Jacksonville coach Crystal Scott was pleased with.

“They were very physical, and we just didn’t compete,” said Scott. “Instead of getting tough and giving some back to them, we start complaining about this and that and trying to get calls. We’ve just got to learn how to compete when things aren’t going our way. But hey, we’re qualified for the state tournament. We’re probably going to play Vilonia or maybe Little Rock Christian, and I think we match up pretty good with both of them.”

Jacksonville lost by 19, 53-34, to Vilonia back on Dec. 4, but it was a five-point game when a player from each team was ejected. Jacksonville lost point guard Alexis James, and its backup point guard, Josie Starr, was already out with an injury.

“We were right there with them until the ejections,” Scott said. “After that we didn’t have anybody to get the ball up the court and get the offense started. It’s a tall task. Vilonia is another physical ball team and we’ll be the underdog, but I think we can compete and I think we’re capable of winning the game.”

The Red Devil boys started cold from outside and PA adjusted by packing down in a 2-3 zone. Jacksonville couldn’t bust it, hitting just 2 of 24 attempts from beyond the 3-point line, both by senior guard LaQuawn Smith.

“When they saw we weren’t shooting well they packed it in and dared us to shoot it,” said JHS boys’ coach Vic Joyner. “You hit some shots, they have to come out of it and that would’ve opened the lanes up for us. But we couldn’t hit anything. That’s all that boiled down to.”

The loss leaves Jacksonville locked in as the four seed from the 5A-Central while J.A. Fair, Mills and PA are still jockeying for the top three spots.

Jacksonville will play its first round playoff game at the Hot Springs Convention Center at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday against either Maumelle or Harrison.

Both teams are 11-2 and tied for first in the 5A-West entering Friday’s season finale between the two teams at Harrison.

The Lady Red Devils will play right before the boys at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Hot Springs against Vilonia or Little Rock Christian Academy.