Friday, December 02, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville teams beat McClellan

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville girls’ basketball team put an end to a three-game losing streak with an easy home win over McClellan on Tuesday. The Lady Titans dominated the first and third quarters en route to a 52-29 victory, while the Jacksonville boys won 59-49 despite being outplayed in the first and fourth quarters.

In the girls’ game, Jacksonville utilized a good balance of inside and outside play. The Lady Titans shot nearly 50 percent from the floor, and scored 38 of their 52 points from inside the paint. Senior Alexis James made the most of her increased playing time due to an injury to starting point guard Josie Starr. James made 3 of 7 3-point attempts and finished with a game-high 17 points.

Starr, who led the team in scoring in its previous game, has been hampered by injuries the last two years, and missed most of Tuesday’s game with another knee injury suffered early in the contest.

Freshman Shy Christopher, who is the team’s leading scorer on average, posted 15 points, all seven baskets coming inside the paint.

Jacksonville led 14-6 at the end of the first quarter, and took a 23-15 lead into intermission. The Lady Titans put the game away in the third quarter, opening with the first 10 points of the half and going into the fourth period with a 40-19 advantage.

Shattoria Briggs added 10 points for the Lady Titans. Shamaryia Brown led McClellan with 16 points and was the only Lady Lion in double figures.

In the boys’ game, McClellan tried to utilize a box-and-one defense to stop senior Titan Tyree Appleby, who has averaged nearly 30 points per game so far this season. The strategy worked early, as Jacksonville struggled to execute against the gimmick defense, but those problems were resolved in the second and third quarters.

Still, Titan coach Vic Joyner wasn’t that pleased with his team’s performance. In fact, he was downright disappointed, despite the victory.

“I thought it was one of the worst games any of my teams at Jacksonville have ever played,” said Joyner. “To execute means finishing. At times we didn’t even run what I was calling. Other times we ran it and got the shot, and missed wide-open shots. That’s just a lack of focus. This team has potential. We have more pieces to the puzzle than we had last year, and I’m trying to get them to another level. But we’re not going to get there if we don’t focus any better than we did in this one.”

Senior post player Chris Williams led the charge in the second quarter. McClellan led 18-16 after one, and Williams scored nine of the team’s 16 points in the second period as the Titans took a 32-25 lead into halftime.

Senior DaJuan Ridgeway became the go-to player in the second half. He scored 13 of his game-high 17 in the final two quarters, including eight in a 16-6 third quarter than put Jacksonville up by 17.

That lead got up to 18 early in the fourth quarter. McClellan then mounted a comeback, but never seriously threatened.

“We got up 18 and should’ve won by 25 or 30, but this team loses focus so easily,” Joyner said. “At this level, against the teams we’re going to be competing with, we’re not going to win anything missing wide-open shots and getting lackadaisical every time we get a little bit of a lead.”

Williams finished with 13 points while Appleby dropped in 12 for the Titans. Marqis Hall led McClellan with 12 points while James Dotson had 11.

Jacksonville’s boys and girls played at Vilonia on Friday after Leader deadlines. Both teams will be off until Thursday when they hit the road for separate tournaments. The Lady Titans (6-4) will play the host team of the Conway High/Dandra Thomas State Farm Invitational at 8:30 p.m. The Jacksonville boys play at Fayetteville.