Tuesday, December 06, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Runs aid Titan win at Vilonia

Leader sports editor

In another streaky performance, the Jacksonville Titans finished with a strong one to hand the Vilonia Eagles their first loss of the season Friday at VHS. The whole game was a series of scoring bursts and lulls by Jacksonville. It started with a huge first-quarter run that put the Titans up 20-10. From that point, the game ebbed and flowed to a final of 66-57.

Jacksonville’s DaJuan Ridgeway opened the second half with a 3-pointer that gave the Titans their biggest lead of the game at 41-28. It also kickstarted Vilonia’s best run and Jacksonville’s longest drought of the game.

The Titans’ next five possessions ended in four turnovers and one missed layup as the Eagles pulled to within 41-35 and forced Titan coach Vic Joyner to call timeout with 3:16 left in the third quarter. Joe Phillips scored for Jacksonville after the timeout, and the two teams traded baskets the rest of the period.

Jacksonville led 49-43 going into the fourth quarter, and the Titans tried to burn some clock with the first possession of the period. It didn’t go well.

Jacksonville (4-2) did manage to burn almost two minutes off the clock, but the possession ended when Ridgeway turned it over. He also fouled Vilonia’s Nate Norman as he hit a layup in transition after the steal. Norman made the foul shot to pull the Eagles to within 49-46 with 5:57 left in the game.

Ridgeway, a senior guard, quickly made up for the mistakes. He hit a 3-pointer on Jacksonville’s next possession, then got his own steal and layup to again make it an 8-point game less than a minute later.

Jacksonville’s Christian White then deflected an entry pass before dribbling straight down the middle of the court and finishing with a thunderous two-handed slam that put the Titans up by 10 with 3:56 left in the game.

After another defensive stop, Jacksonville ran almost a minute off the clock before Ridgeway found Brylin Estes under the basket for an easy layup that made it 58-46 with 2:50 remaining.

Jacksonville’s run finally ended at 11-0 after senior guard Tyree Appleby got into the lane for a finger roll lay-in and a 60-46 with 2:25 left in the game.

“We still aren’t doing a good job of playing with a lead,” said Joyner. “We had way too many turnovers, and almost all of them came after we’d get a lead and start losing focus. But I’m not all negative. We beat a solid, undefeated, veteran team on their home floor. Vilonia’s a hell of a team. So we had to have done something right. We just have to keep getting better if we want to take it to the next level.”

Appleby led Jacksonville with 15 points while Ridgeway added 14. White played limited minutes, but scored seven points and grabbed eight rebounds as the fifth man off the bench for the Titans. The 6-foot-4 junior is one of the most athletic players on the team, and Joyner is expecting more from him and sophomore Joe Phillips on the inside as the season progresses.

“Christian just has to get his motor revved down a little bit and he can help us,” Joyner said. “Instead of being revved up to 110 like he is ALL the time. He’s always so revved up and he’s out of control. Tonight we got 70 mile-per-hour Christian White, and we can deal with that. He just has to learn to park that Camaro and drive the Subaru.”

Post player C.J. Williford led Vilonia with 15 points while Hayden Patterson came off the bench to score 10 for the Eagles (4-1).

Jacksonville committed 16 turnovers, but none in the fourth quarter. The Titans had a phenomenal shooting night, hitting 20 of 31 2-point attempts and 5 of 12 from 3-point range. They went 11 of 17 from the foul line and outrebounded Vilonia 28-16.

Injuries have severely depleted the Lady Titans and that lack of depth was apparent in their 56-31 loss to Vilonia. Jacksonville coach Marian Kursh only had seven players available for Friday’s game from her roster of 15. The Lady Titans struggled offensively, making just 12 of 51 shot attempts and committing 24 turnovers. They also made just 6 of 18 free-throw attempts and were 1 of 7 from 3-point range.

Senior Dayzya Jordan led Jacksonville with 16 points while freshman Shy Christopher added 10.