Friday, December 23, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Central owns second half against Titans

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Titans executed their offense with the precision of an expert marksman for about a quarter and a half on Wednesday. But that fell apart midway through the third as Little Rock Central rallied from 12 down to beat the Titans 77-64 at JHS.

The Tigers started strong. Their length and athleticism was a problem for the host team as they built a 15-11 lead.

When Jacksonville’s Christian White picked up two quick fouls, it left Central with two players at least three inches taller than anyone the Titans could put on the floor. Central forwards Tyler Moore and Raekwon Rogers combined for 10 of Central’s first-quarter points.

Jacksonville got adjusted in the second quarter and began to pick apart Central’s defense. Swing passes and backdoor cuts led to some open layups against the Tigers’ zone. Caleb Kendrick and Tyree Appleby added 3-pointers from outside.

Jacksonville outscored Central 22-13 in the second quarter and took a 33-28 lead into halftime.

The home team picked up right where it left off in the third. Jacksonville scored the first seven points of the second half, and Central was showing frustration. Central’s Cameron Johnson picked up a technical foul after Kavion Waller hit a wide-open layup for Jacksonville.

Appleby made both free throws to make it a 9-0 run and give the Titans a 42-30 lead with 5:24 left in the third quarter.

It was almost all Central from that point. Over the next two minutes, the Tigers outscored Jacksonville 9-2, and Titan coach Vic Joyner called timeout with 3:20 left. The timeout stopped Central’s run momentarily, but Jacksonville never got its offense clicking like it had been in the second and early third quarters.

Central scored 21 points in the final five minutes of the third quarter and took a 51-49 lead into the fourth period. Making things worse for Jacksonville, Central guard Jacobia Platt got hot from outside, propounding the Titans’ difficulties in stopping Rogers inside.

Platt hit three long 3-pointers and Rogers scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half to lead Centrals’ charge.

The Tigers opened the quarter with a 9-2 run to take a 60-51 lead. Appleby got the line to cut it to seven, but Platt hit his second 3-pointer to make it a 10-point game.

The lead reached 11 at 66-55 before Jacksonville scored six-straight. Appleby lobbed an alley-oop pass to Joe Phillips for a slam dunk that made it 66-61 with 3:20 remaining, and the Titans had three possessions at that same score but could never get any closer.

Their next three possessions ended in two turnovers and a missed 3-pointer. It should’ve been four possessions, but the officials mistakenly called a loose ball out of bounds on Jacksonville, and Central scored on the ensuing possession.

The Tigers eventually scored eight in a row to put the game away.

Joyner believes his team is close to being one of the elite in the state, but needs someone to step up and be a point guard.

“We just don’t have a true point guard and that’s what’s killing us right now,” Joyner said. “Appleby can do it, but he’s really a two and he wants to score first. He was running it like a veteran in the second quarter and we were picking them apart. But he got out of it and started forcing it. I put DaJuan (Ridgeway) out there and he wanted to go for his shot. If we can get somebody to sacrifice just a little bit of their offense and be a point guard, I’ll put this team out there against anybody. We’re so close, we just have to have a point guard.”

The Titans (7-5) were 20 of 55 from the floor, and made just four of 20 3-point attempts against Central’s zone defense. They were 20 of 29 at the free-throw line while Central made 24 of 36. The Tigers (8-2) outrebounded the Titans 31-29.

Appleby led all scorers with 27 points. He also had six rebounds and five assists. Phillips came off the bench to contribute 11 points and seven rebounds.

Platt led Central with 19 points, including 13 in the second half. Johnson scored 17 and Moore 13 for the Tigers. Rogers made it a double-double by adding 11 rebounds to his 16 points. Moore also had a double-double with 10 rebounds.

The Titans will play next week in the Coke Classic at UA-Fort Smith. Their first round game will be 2:30 p.m. Wednesday against Little Rock Hall.