Friday, January 27, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville overcomes gutsy Bears

Leader sports editor

Seven point margins don’t often fall into the “wild ending” category, but that’s what happened Tuesday at Jacksonville High School, where the host Titans escaped archrival Sylvan Hills 68-61. Several times the Titans appeared on their way to a sizeable margin of victory, but a persistent Sylvan Hills team just wouldn’t go away.

The Bears went from down seven to down three twice in the last 80 seconds and had an opportunity to get closer. But Jacksonville’s Tyree Appleby got a key steal with 30 seconds left to help lead the Titans to an eventual outcome.

Sylvan Hills trailed 59-52 with 1:37 remaining when Jacksonville’s DaJuan Ridgeway found Antoine Davis under the basket with one of his eight assists. After a Bear free throw made it 59-53, Jacksonville missed at the other end. Sylvan Hills’ Jacobé Davis’ shot was blocked by Joe Phillips, and the Titans made their first big mistake that helped make the game exciting down the stretch.

Jacksonville ran its offense perfectly for Appleby to lob an alley-oop pass for a wide-open post player. But Phillips and teammate Christian White thought the lob was intended for them, and collided going up for the dunk.

Davis then hit a 3-pointer with 1:02 to play to make the score 59-56.

Appleby then made two free throws before a Davis miss. Ridgeway then made two free throws for a 63-56 Jacksonville lead with 47 seconds to go.

Sylvan Hills’ Jamal Johnson then drove down the middle of the lane for an easy layup. White then threw the inbound pass directly to Davis, who hit a short jumper that made it 63-60 with 35 seconds remaining.

The Bears quickly fouled Appleby and he missed the front end of a one-and-one trip to the line. But he made up for the error by stealing the ball at midcourt. He was fouled hardby Zion Butler going for the layup. He missed the shot, but the foul was ruled intentional, giving Jacksonville two free throws and the ball back with 25 seconds left.

Appleby made 1 of 2, but Harderrious Martin again threw the inbound pass to the wrong team. Justin Glasco stole the pass and went to the line with 20 seconds to go.

He made 1 of 2, and that was the Bears’ last gasp. They quickly fouled Ridgeway, who made both of his free throws. Sylvan Hills then missed from long range and Appleby got the rebound. He hit Phillips at midcourt behind the Bears’ defense for a runout layup that set the final margin.

“We had two people throwing the ball inbounds that know they’re not supposed to throw the ball inbounds,” said Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner of the two costly turnovers. “The first one happened so fast. I just had enough time to think, what is he doing?’ before he threw it away. The second one was after the free throw. HD (Martin) knows he’s not supposed to do that, but they handed him the ball before I noticed. I wanted to call timeout but I only had one left.”

There were other moments in the game when it appeared the Titans might be on their way to an easy win, but the Bears stayed in the game with good defense and even better outside shooting.

Joyner admitted that Sylvan Hills’ hybrid zone defense gave his guards some trouble.

“(SH coach) Kevin Davis is an old, wily veteran coach,” Joyner said. “That 2-3 zone, or 3-2, whatever it is – nobody flares that defense that far out like they do. You just never see that. I saw that on tape and I knew our bigs were going to have play well and score. They collapsed back in a little bit in the second half and we stopped going inside to them. They had a good game plan.”

Jacksonville’s post players did indeed play well. White had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Phillips had a game-high 15 points and added seven rebounds. Chris Williams scored nine points and had 15 rebounds. Jacksonville dramatically outrebounded Sylvan Hills, 43-20.

Part of the reason for the Titans’ huge rebounding dominance was due to the Bears’ starting center, Jordan Washington, only playing about eight total minutes because of foul trouble.

“That was a little bit of it, for sure,” said Kevin Davis. “But they outworked us on the boards. There’s no doubt about that.”

Sylvan Hills players were dejected after the game, but Kevin Davis put it in perspective.

“It’s a rivalry and these two teams really want to beat each other,” said Davis. “It counts on our conference record, but it doesn’t count for our conference tournament seeding. We’re still in pretty good shape there because of these blended conferences we’re all in. The only 5A team to beat us is Parkview, so we’re sitting No. 2 after one round through the conference. So we’ll get back in the gym and get back to work.”

No one for Sylvan Hills scored in double figures, but seven different players scored at least six points.

Jacobé Davis and Washington scored nine. Daylon Raynor, Butler and J.D. Smith had eight. Johnson scored seven and Alex Curry six.

Sylvan Hills made 10 of 21 3-point attempts, but just 5 of 11 free throws.

Appleby scored 12 points for Jacksonville while Ridgeway added 11. The Titans were 3 for 11 from outside and 17 of 22 from the foul line.