Saturday, November 19, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Titans improve defense, can’t hit

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville basketball coach Vic Joyner stressed defense for his team’s rematch of a 78-77 loss at Mills on Nov. 11. His team responded, but the offense was off, resulting in a 54-52 home loss to the Comets last night at JHS.

“I said I wanted to keep them in the low 50s and we did that,” said Joyner. “But we shot the ball worse than I’ve ever seen since I’ve been coaching at Jacksonville High School. We just couldn’t buy a bucket. None of my guys could. They were better defensively, too. But we had chances. We just couldn’t hit the shots.”

The Titans’ struggles mostly came from the perimeter, but in the first and third quarters, not many shots were falling from anywhere. Jacksonville even missed two dunks in the first quarter.

Even with shots not falling, the defense played well enough to take a 25-23 lead into the locker room, but Mills came out hot in the third quarter, outscoring the Titans 18-8 and taking a 40-33 lead into the fourth period.

Jacksonville battled back in the fourth quarter, holding Mills to just two field goals over the last eight minutes. But the Titans had to foul late, and the Comets made enough free throws down the stretch to maintain its advantage and earn the win.

Mills (3-0) made 16 of 23 free throws, including 9 of 12 in the fourth quarter. Jacksonville was 10 of 15 from the line.

Joyner, who knew coming into the season he had a largely inexperienced team, was pleased to see defensive progress from one game to the next.

“After two games giving up 70, to hold a team as experienced andtalented as Mills to 54, that was impressive to me,” Joyner said. “All we did was play man the whole game, so that got a lot better. They changed to a little matchup zone that we didn’t quite figure out in the first half. When we figured it out, we couldn’t hit shots. He (Mills coach Raymond Cooper) matched up to keep his bigs around the rim and stop our drives. That gave us outside, but we just couldn’t hit.”

For the second time, Mills’ Grehlon Easter and Jacksonville’s Tyree Appleby led their respective teams in scoring. Appleby managed just three points in the first half, but finished with 19. Easter scored 14 for the Comets.

Chris Williams scored 10 for Jacksonville and Jeremiah Toney added 12 for Mills.

Jacksonville (1-2) will play a rematch with Pine Bluff at home on Tuesday. The Titans beat the Zebras 69-64 in the season opener at PBHS on Nov. 8.