SPORTS >> JHS dominates Blue Devils
Leader sports editor
The Jacksonville Red Devils took care of West Memphis last Friday night with surprising ease, beating the Blue Devils 62-51 at home to move to 3-2 in conference play and into a tie for third place in the brutally tough AAAAA-East conference.
The game was not without its moments of excitement, but that drama was short-lived.
The Red Devils scored the first nine points of the game, and took a 20-8 lead by the start of the second quarter.
The Blue Devils came back strong in the second and cut the margin to 33-31 by halftime, but that’s as close as it would get.
Jacksonville went on another run in the third quarter and the defending state champions had no answer in the second half.
Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner said the strong start was the key to the game.
“Knowing what West Memphis had done to this team the last couple of years, I think getting off to that fast start, and proving to themselves that they could play with this bunch, was essential,” Joyner said. “I knew they would make a run, but my guys already knew they could play with them and handle it. That was key.”
Senior center Kelsey Credit sparked the early run that put the Red Devils in the lead. He had three steals, four points and an assist to get Jacksonville out to the fast start.
Credit only scored two more points in the game, but added four blocks defensively, and the guards took over most of the scoring.
Seniors Lavar Neely and Airic Hughes combined for 36 of Jacksonville’s 62 points, including 21 of the team’s 29 in the second half.
Hughes scored seven of his 14 in the third quarter to lead Jacksonville back out to a commanding lead, while Neely took over the in the final period and put the game away.
In the third quarter, Hughes got the ball rolling with a steal and a layup. He immediately got another steal and dished to Neely for a 37-31 lead, forcing West Memphis to call timeout.
After the break, Hughes hit a three pointer after a defensive stop, then fed Credit inside for a 42-32 advantage with five minutes left in the quarter.
The scoring slowed for the remainder of the quarter. Two free throws by Tresdan Winkfield made it 45-36 with 14 seconds left, but Hughes answered with a three pointer from the corner at the buzzer.
He added the first bucket of the fourth before Neely stepped in for six straight points that sealed the game.
Jacksonville was a perfect 8 for 8 from the line in the fourth quarter when West Memphis was forced to begin fouling to stop the clock.
The defensive intensity was at an all-time high in the second half. After giving up 23 points in the second quarter, including 13 by 6-foot-7 guard Jason Henry, the Red Devils didn’t allow a single field goal in the third quarter.
West Memphis managed just five free throws.
The lead grew to as much as 62-46 in the final period. Henry scored the Blue Devils’ first bucket of the second half a minute into the fourth, but that was the only field goal for another six minutes.
West Memphis didn’t score from the field again until Henry hit a layup with 1:04 showing on the clock. The Blue Devils added a third basket with seven seconds left in the game when Jacksonville’s only strategy was not to foul.
The win lifted the Red Devils to 12-5 overall while West Memphis slumps to 6-9 and 1-4 in conference play.
The Lady Blue Devils won their matchup Friday, beating Jacksonville 74-34.
West Memphis improved to 3-2 in conference play while Jacksonville dropped to 0-5.