Tuesday, February 21, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> JHS Titans overcome bad seed, make state

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Titans saved their season Tuesday in the losers’ bracket of the 6A-East District tournament, hammering Searcy 90-53 at JHS and qualifying for the Class 6A state tournament.

The 16-14 Titans were favored over the 8-20 Lions, but Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner wasn’t comfortable until the game was completely in hand midway through the third quarter.

“It was just an eerie feeling all day,” said Joyner. “It’s just a strange situation. Then you get to the gym and it’s not packed or anything like it usually is. We’re playing at 6 O’clock. Just everything was different and felt eerie, and then we knew we had to win or it was over. So I’m just glad we got the win. We’re in state now no matter what, and getting there is the thing. Anything can happen once you’re there.”

The win sets up a Saturday date with either Pine Bluff or Mountain Home, who played each other late Tuesday.

Jacksonville started sloppy, but got better after their best play sat down with three fouls midway through the second quarter.

Jacksonville was up 20-16 when leading scorer Tyree Appleby got his second and third fouls in a five-second span and had to take a seat on the bench.

From that point, the Titans scored the next 11 points in a row, and closed the last half of the second quarter by outscoring Searcy 24-7 to take a 44-23 lead into intermission.

The onslaught continued in the third period, as the Titans posted 23 points in just four minutes of play. Appleby opened the quarter with a reverse layup just nine seconds in. He then got a steal and dished to DaJuan Ridgeway for a layup and a 48-23 lead.

After a Searcy miss, Ridgeway got the rebound. He passed to Appleby, who passed to Caleb Kendrick, who hit a 3-pointer for a 51-23 just one minute into the third.

The lead was 53-28 moments later when Jacksonville scored six-straight in rapid succession. It started with an Appleby pass to Chris Williams for a backdoor layup. Williams then got a steal and another layup.

Searcy fired a quick three and missed. Joe Phillips got the rebound for the Titans, threw an outlet pass to Ridgeway, who returned the favor and hit Phillips for a dunk as he trailed the ball. That gave the Titans a 59-28 lead with 5:20 left in the third.

Tony Young hit a 3-pointer for Searcy, but Jacksonville got right back on a roll.

After a Jacksonville miss, Ridgeway got a steal and hit Phillips for an alley-oop. Appleby then got a steal and lobbed his own oop to Phillips for a 63-31 lead.

Searcy threw the ball away on the ensuing possession and Appleby scored to make it 65-31 with 4:31 left in the third period.

Jacksonville carried a 77-45 lead into the fourth quarter and the mercy rule went into effect.

Ridgeway led the Titans with 16 points while Chris Williams scored 14 and had 10 rebounds. Appleby and HD Martin scored 13 apiece. Ridgeway, Appleby and Martin all had five steals as Jacksonville forced 27 Searcy turnovers.

The Lady Titans saw their season come to an end in their tournament game at Searcy, The Jacksonville girls led 28-27 at halftime, but suffered a terrible third quarter, getting outscored 26-7 and eventually losing 67-53.