Friday, December 23, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Mills wears down Wolves

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville Lighthouse got its first shot at one of the state’s elite on Wednesday in day one of the Titan Classic at JHS. The Class 2A Wolves took on 5A powerhouse Mills University Studies, and the experience difference was evident. The Comets jumped out to a quick 12-4 lead and went on to a dominant 95-62 victory.

The Wolves didn’t go away quietly. The Comets appeared to be on the verge of blowing the game open several times as early as the second quarter, but it wasn’t until the fourth period that they finally were able to pull away.

JLC’s two leading scorers are freshmen while Mills’ top two players are seniors who have already signed college scholarships. And experience wasn’t the only difference that was evident.

“I think you could see the physicality difference was pretty obvious,” said Lighthouse coach Kelvin Parker. “I think that had something to do with why it got away from us in the fourth quarter. They were just able to wear us down.”

Mills (9-1) led 23-11 at the end of the first quarter, and then scored the first eight points of the second to force Parker to call his third timeout just 11 minutes into the game.

But the Wolves weren’t ready to go just yet. Zack Bobo hit two 3-pointers to lead a 12-5 run that pulled Lighthouse to within 36-23 with 2:40 left in the second quarter.

That forced Mills coach Raymond Cooper to call timeout, and his team came out of the break with renewed vigor.

The Comets scored eight points in 55 seconds and were back up 21 with 1:45 left in the half. Lighthouse got to within 46-28 by intermission, and opened the third quarter with an 8-2 run to pull within 48-36 just one minute into the period.

Mills was able to stretch the lead back to 60-43 by the end of the third, but again Lighthouse (14-2) started the fourth with five-straight points by freshman Devonte Davis to make it 60-48 with 7:15 to go in the game.

That’s when the Comets exploded. Mills closed the game scoring 35 points in less than seven minutes. The mercy rule was reached with 2:14 remaining when Orion Virden hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game to make the score 88-58.

Cooper couldn’t find much to critique about his team’s performance, but did think the game should’ve been in hand a little earlier.

“I thought we lost focus a couple times when we got up by 20 or so,” Cooper said. “We were able to get it back when they’d make a little run. And I was very pleased that I was able to go pretty deep in my bench and those guys played well. I was hoping to be able to do that because I’m looking for a little more depth for rotation in conference. We may have found one or two.”

Virden joined Razorback signee Darious Hall for high-scoring honors with 23 points. Jeremiah Toney scored 12 and Grehlon Easter had 11 for the Comets, who outrebounded Lighthouse 34-13.

Davis led the Wolves with 17 points while Zack Bobo and Gerald Doakes scored 12 apiece.

Mills took on Little Rock Central on Thursday while Jacksonville Lighthouse played Jacksonville High. Look for details of those games in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.