Leader Blues

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

SPORTS >> Comeback falls short for Red Devils

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Lavar Neely saved the day twice for Jacksonville in their conference opener against Forrest City, but the Red Devils couldn’t save themselves in overtime against the Mustangs. Forrest City took the overtime win 77-71 on Friday at the Devils Den after trailing most of the second half.

The loss was not due to a lack of effort on Neely’s part as the senior put up 37 of the Red Devils’ points in the contest, including a three-pointer at the end of regulation to tie the game and send it into overtime.

“Lavar has a big heart,” Red Devils head coach Victor Joyner said. “Everybody talks about how wild he is, but Lavar has settled down and is playing within the confines of our offense. Everybody is doing what they are asked to do.”

The game got underway to a blistering tempo, and that tempo would not decrease until the overtime buzzer. Neely showed his hand early for Jacksonville, scoring the first six Red Devil points, including a steal he took all the way to put his team ahead 6-0 at the 4:45 mark in the first quarter. Neely came away with 14 points at the end of the first quarter, as the Red Devils led Forrest City 18-10 after one.

Forrest City junior Marcus Britt began to make his presence known in the second quarter, helping the Mustangs pull to within four. Neely pulled off one of his many heroic feats at the halftime buzzer with a lay up to give Jacksonville a 33-27 lead at the half.

Britt came alive for the Mustangs in the third quarter, scoring 16 points in the period to tie the game at 47-47 at the 1:47 mark.
Kelsey Credit put Jacksonville back out front moments later with a lay up with 1:09 remaining. The game saw a rare cooling-off period at that point, and the score remained 49-47 at the end of three.

The frantic pace picked back up at the start of the final quarter, with both teams trading shots back-and-forth. The score quickly grew to 51-51 before Neely came away with five unanswered points to put the ‘Devils out front once again 56-51.

The Mustangs quickly shrank that lead back down to one, with a pair of baskets from Stephen Weaver.
A three-point shot from Britt tied it up at 62-62. It would be the last contribution from the Forrest City guard on the night, as he fouled out on the following Jacksonville possession while trying to pick Neely with 1:43 left in the game.

A basket from Kelson Stewart and a pair of free throws from Weaver put Forrest City ahead by three with 9.7 seconds left in the game, but Neely had one more incredible shot left in him.

Neely took the ball down court, almost dribbling it off his foot at one point. Neely pulled up at the arc as time expired, and the shot went all net to put the game into overtime.

When Neely ran out of gas, so did the Jacksonville offense. A basket from Will Christian and a three pointer from Kajuan Watson were the only Red Devil points in the extra period, as Stewart, Weaver and the rest of the Mustangs rolled on for the overtime win.

“We didn’t want to lose it, but that was a very good basketball game,” Joyner said. “Both teams battled. We had opportunities; we just didn’t get to the free- throw line in the second half. You’ve got to get to the rack and shoot free throws.

“I thought Lavar got to the rack a couple of times, but nobody else was attacking the bucket very hard.”
While Neely’s 37-point performance was the strongest of the night offensively for Jack-sonville, Kelsey Credit turned in the best defensive performance with nine rebounds and seven blocked shots for the Red Devils.

Marcus Britt led Forrest City with 32 points on the night.

The Lady Red Devils also lost their conference opener, falling to the Lady Mustangs 41-33. Tarneshai Scott led the Lady Devils with 13 points, while sophomore Morgan Waits added eight points for Jacksonville.