Friday, November 25, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Titans split with Zebras

Leader sports editor

Long droughts and sudden bursts of rapid runs was the routine for the Titans Tuesday at Jacksonville High School. Fortunately for the home team, the biggest run of all came in the fourth quarter as the Titans beat Pine Bluff 60-51.

Jacksonville (2-2) led 33-24 at halftime, but managed just one basket through the first six minutes of the third quarter, and found itself trailing 42-38 with 20 seconds left in the third. From that point until 50 seconds left in the game, the Titans went on a 22-3 run until the Zebras (0-4) scored the final six points of the game to set the final margin.

Senior guard Tyree Appleby led the charge, scoring 12 of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter, but Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner took a more long-term, analytical approach to how the game played out, and found some concerns.

“We’re improving on defense, and Pine Bluff has some players that just make it hard on your defense sometimes,” said Joyner. “Defense was my big concern after the first week. We were giving up way too many points. We addressed that, and we’re getting better. Right now, this team is not balanced enough on the offensive end. We talked about getting the post players more touches, and we did get them a few more. Maybe five. That’s more than none like we had been doing. But that part of our offense has got to get better. We have great guards, and we can win a lot of games. But to get one of them, (pointing at his championship plaques on his office wall) we have to develop an inside game as well. And that’s on everybody. The guards have to understand that as well.”

Despite the win, Jacksonville’s outside shooting woes continued as well. In the Titans’ two-point loss to Mills in its previous game, Joyner said it was the worst shooting night he’s ever seen as JHS coach. On Tuesday, the Titans were 2 of 13 from 3-point range.

“We have good shooters,” Joyner said. “I see it every day in practice, and we hit outside the first two games. I don’t know what’s happened the last two, but I’m not too worried about that. These guys can shoot the ball.”

Pine Bluff didn’t make a high percentage from outside, but came out firing and never stopped. The Zebras took 10 3-point shots in the first quarter, and finished 5 of 25 from long range.

Jacksonville made 20 of 44 from inside the 3-point arc, while Pine Bluff was just 13 of 39. The Titans went 12 of 18 from the free-throw line, where Pine Bluff was 10 of 17.

Caleb Parker led the Zebras with 15 points. Forward Dequan Morris posted a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, while post player Braylon Griswold came off the bench to score 10 points for the visitors.


The Lady Titans (4-2) played much better than in its first meeting with Pine Bluff, but still fell in overtime 51-48. In the first game of the season, Jacksonville lost 39-30 at PBHS, and first-year head coach Marian Kursh is pleased with the progress she saw from that game to this one.

“I told them I’m proud of them,” Kursh said. “We have some execution issues on offense we have to clean up. But these girls are learning a whole new system and a whole new way of doing things. It’s going to take some time. Like I said at the beginning of the season, there’s nowhere for us to go but up. They played extremely hard defensively and that kept us in the game. If they keep working hard, they’re going to keep getting better.”

Freshman Shy Christopher led the Lady Titans with 13 points, and made it a double-double with 14 rebounds. Josie Starr added nine points for Jacksonville while Martina Knight had seven points and 10 rebounds.

Alexis Reed scored 16 for Pine Bluff (5-1) while Jaidan Woods had 10.

The Jacksonville boys and girls will host McClellan on Tuesday.