Saturday, November 11, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Comets outlast Titans

Leader sports editor

Controlling the tempo was the key to winning the basketball season opener between Jacksonville and Mills on Tuesday, and Mills did it just a little better en route to a 65-58 victory at The Galaxy in Little Rock.

The visiting Titans were in control in the first quarter. Their deliberate halfcourt offense took advantage of their superior size but Mills spent the second quarter and most of the third pushing the tempo and building a lead that reached as much as 12 points.

The Comets were up 49-37 with 3:12 left in the third quarter. Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner called timeout and switched from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone defense. Mills grew content to take long shots, and Jacksonville worked its way back into the game.

Late in the fourth quarter, Jacksonville point guard Michael Terry penetrated and dished to postman Joe Phillips, who completed a three-point play and tied the game at 58-58 with 2:27 remaining.

But the Titans went scoreless the rest of the way and committed turnovers on its final three possessions.

Both of Jacksonville’s leading scorers and primary ball handlers from last year are playing college ball this year, and Joyner is taking a patient approach to bringing along the ball handlers this season.

“When we get Mike Terry and little Antoine Davis a little experience we’re going to be all right,” said Joyner. “Terry did all right handling the pressure, but then he got in foul trouble. And neither one of them is a true point guard. This team don’t have one. If we stay under control and run our sets, we’re better than them. But they got us out of it and they won. Overall though, I was encouraged. We needed a game that I could pull out the film and show them what I’ve been trying to teach them. They played hard. I can say that. I was pleased with their effort. This team’s going to have some potential.”

Jacksonville battled foul trouble the entire game. Terry and both starting post players, Christian White and Phillips, carried three fouls into halftime. Terry picked up his fourth about three minutes into the third quarter, and sat until late in the fourth.

Jacksonville led 16-12 at the end of the first quarter, but Mills took its first lead exactly halfway through the second when 6-foot-6 Parkview transfer Kevin Cross put back his own miss and was fouled. His free throw gave the Comets a 25-23 lead. Davis answered right back for Jacksonville, getting into the lane to draw a foul, and hitting a circus shot to make it a three-point play.

Mills turned up the defensive pressure and began picking up the ball in the backcourt. Jacksonville turned it over five times in the last half of the second quarter, and Mills took a 37-32 lead into intermission.

After stretching it to 12, Mills fell back into a slower game when the Titans switched to the zone defense.

“They switched to that zone and we got lazy and started settling for threes,” said Mills coach Raymond Cooper. “And the worst thing about it was we hit the first couple of them, so we thought we could just keep on shooting. They were disciplined and patient and we weren’t, and that’s why they got back into the game. But we pulled it out so overall I’m pleased. Any time you beat that program, you got a quality win.”

The turnover margin was the difference. Mills committed 14 turnovers while Jacksonville had 25. Mills’ four-year starter Grehlon Easter and Cross led all players with 19 points a piece. Patrick Greene, a transfer from Maumelle, added 14 for the Comets.

Senior guard Braylon Hawkins led Jacksonville in scoring and rebounding, with 15 points and seven boards. Phillips added 11 and White 10 for the Titans.

Jacksonville made 21 of 43 shot attempts, including 5 of 10 from 3-point range. The Titans weren’t as good from the line, making 13 of 21.

Mills hit 24 of 51 from the floor, including 5 of 14 from long range. The Comets were 11 of 17 from the free-throw line. Jacksonville outrebounded Mills 28-21.

Jacksonville played at eStem along with the girls Friday night. The next game will be the home opener Nov. 21 against Monticello.