Tuesday, January 24, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Titans salvage subpar outing

Leader sports editor

Although the Jacksonville Titans beat Pulaski Academy 59-48 at home on Friday, it didn’t feel much like a win for Jacksonville assistant coach Brandon Weems, who was in charge in place of Vic Joyner, who is suffering his second bout of pneumonia this season.

The Titans executed very little offense in the first half against Pulaski Academy’s packed in zone defense. They also shot the ball awfully for three quarters. That left the home team facing a fourth-quarter deficit against the 3-10, 0-6 Bruins.

“Honestly, it feels like a loss,” said Weems. “We didn’t do anything we set out to do with our game plan. I said it a hundred times today. I said it a hundred times in pregame. Get it into the lane – paint touches – paint touches. What do we do? We stand around and shoot 22 threes. It’s disappointing as a coach to not reach the kids. Obviously I didn’t reach them because they did what they wanted.”

Jacksonville has not enjoyed a size advantage in many games this year, but did have a considerable one on Friday. The Bruins have suffered unusual struggles this season because of their lack of size and depth. They played a packed zone in an attempt to keep the game slowed down against more athletic teams, and Weems felt the way to counter that zone was to attack it.

“They have no shot blockers or anybody that can protect the rim, so they have to collapse if you just get it in there,” Weems said. “I don’t care how you do it. You can throw it to the bigs, penetrate. I didn’t care how they did it; just get the ball to the paint. They either collapse and leave two or three guys open, or they don’t and we get to the rim. They don’t have anybody that can stop an (Tyree) Appleby. But we just stand back and shoot from 25 feet.”

Jacksonville trailed 15-11 with 90 seconds left in the first half when it went on a 10-0 run to take a 21-15 lead into the locker room. Before making their last four shot attempts of the half, the Titans were 3 of 25 from the floor.

PA then opened the second half with a 10-1 run to take a 25-22 lead with 5:35 left in the third. The two teams traded spare baskets until Jacksonville led 32-31 going into the final period of play.

Jacksonville was 2 for 16 from 3-point range through three quarters, but made 4 of 6 in the fourth to pull away.

PA scored the first five points of the fourth quarter for a 36-32 lead with 6:20 remaining.

Jacksonville’s DaJuan Ridgeway broke the short run with a 3-pointer, and the two teams stayed even up to 40-40 with 4:20 to go.

Appleby then made a long 3-pointer for a 43-40 Jacksonville lead. After a PA miss, Appleby made another deep 3-pointer to make it 46-40 and force a Bruin timeout with 3:41 left in the game.

The Bruins scored out of the break, but Ridgeway found Chris Williams open for a layup that made it 48-52 with 2:50 to play. The Bruins then began to turn the ball over and the Titans pulled away.

After PA threw the ball out of bounds, Harderrious Martin missed a 3-pointer from the left corner and PA’s Zach Fisher got the rebound. Ridgeway then stole it from Fisher and passed to Appleby. Appleby got the lane and kicked back out to Ridgeway for a 3-pointer that made it 51-42 with two minutes left, and all but sealed the victory.

Appleby led Jacksonville with 21 points, six steals and five assists. He had four steals in the fourth quarter.

Ridgeway had 12 points, four steals and three assists. Junior post player Christian White contributed a double-double. He finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds.

Jacksonville (13-9, 3-3) hosted nearby rival Sylvan Hills on Tuesday. Look for details of that game in Saturday’s edition of The Leader. The Titans will play the second half of the 5A/6A Central round robin at J.A. Fair on Friday.

The Lady Titans struggled with Pulaski Academy’s fullcourt pressure in a 62-42 loss. Jacksonville committed 27 turnovers, including 10 in the decisive third quarter.

That’s when Pulaski Academy (18-1, 6-0) turned a 31-17 halftime lead into a 51-26 advantage going into the final frame.

Jacksonville (10-13, 2-4)also forced a lot of turnovers, but struggled from the floor and foul line. the Lady Titans only made 18 of 50 shot attempts, and just 3 of 13 free throws.