Tuesday, November 22, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville ladies cruise past Comets

Leader sports editor

The Marian Kursh era continues to be a successful one in the early going of the Lady Titans’ 2016-17 basketball season.

Jacksonville picked up its fourth win in five games last Friday with a 71-39 victory over Mills University Studies in the team’s home opener. The game was a rematch from a week earlier when Jacksonville beat Mills 58-24 in Little Rock.

It was also Jacksonville’s highest point total of the season, and a game in which 10 different players got on the scoreboard.

“I definitely feel like we are getting better,” said Kursh. “Team chemistry is starting to build and we’re beginning to understand things better. Defensively we weren’t as sharp. We gave up entirely too many points. But these girls have been asked to do a lot this year. This is totally new and I know it’s going to take some time.”

Jacksonville was in control for most of the game, but didn’t blow it open and invoke the mercy rule until the fourth quarter. The Lady Titans exploded for 24 points in the final frame to put the game away.

Jacksonville led 17-8 at the end of the first quarter and 30-17 at halftime. That lead increased to 47-30 by the start of the fourth, when the Lady Titans outscored Mills 24-9.

Second-chance points played a key role in the game. Jacksonville outrebounded Mills 38-26, and 18-7 on the offensive end. That translated into a 23-5 advantage in second-chance points.

Jacksonville did, however, commit 22 turnovers, and are still learning some of the fundamentals of man defense.

“I would say not everybody understood or even knew the principles of man-to-man defense,” Kursh said about her first-year team. “We’re strengthening that. We want to pick them up at halfcourt, force them to go away from their strong hand, basic stuff that we’re still working on. But we’re getting better.”

Freshman Shymaryia Christopher shined in the win, turning in the team’s first double-double of the season She finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, and was also one of four Lady Titans with four steals. Jacksonville forced 36 Mills turnovers, of which 22 were steals, resulting in 32 points off turnovers for the Lady Titans.

Senior Dayzya Jordan added 14 points for Jackson-ville while junior Shatorria Briggs scored 13.

There have been three different leading scorers for Jacksonville in five games, and seven different players have scored in double figures so far this season.

“I’ve also noticed in just about every game, I have three or four different girls in double figures,” said Kursh. “So that tells me we’re working as a team and distributing the ball around. That’s going to help us.”

Jacksonville hosted Pine Bluff on Tuesday after Leader deadlines. The Lady Zebras handed Jacksonville its only loss so far this season, 39-30 on Nov. 8.

Look for details of that game on Saturday’s edition of the Leader.

The Lady Titans will also be in action this weekend in the Turkey Crossover Classic at Pulaski Academy.

Jacksonville takes on eStem Charter at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, and will face Hot Springs at 10 a.m. Saturday.