Leader Blues

Thursday, December 14, 2006

SPORTS>> Red Devils disrupt Conway

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

Jacksonville answered its worst performance so far with two good wins. After opening the Wampus Cat Invitational with a dismal loss to Benton, Jacksonville bounced back to defeat Van Buren and Conway to take fifth place in the event. The Red Devils closed the tournament by beating the host Wampus Cats 66-54. They grabbed a sizeable lead early and maintained it throughout the contest. Several times the Red Devils seemed on the brink of running away with the game, but Conway wouldn’t go away. The tournament host started hot from the outside in the third quarter and stayed that way, and that kept the game close.

Leading the way to the early lead for Jacksonville was senior post player Gerron Riddles. Riddles turned in his best game of the season, scoring 15 points, almost all of which came out of offensive execution. He also got a few buckets by crashing the offensive boards.

“Gerron knew they had a big guy,” Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner said. “He knows he has to step up to the plate especially when there’s a guy two or three inches taller than him. He’s also got Antwain Lockhart trying to take his place every day in practice. He’s been playing hard and things are starting to come to him. His conditioning is getting better too. He’s in the best shape he’s been in since I’ve been here, and that’s helping him with his footwork and getting up and down the floor.”
The Jacksonville guards, much maligned recently by Joyner for failing to make the entry pass to the post, did so with regularity in the first half Saturday, and Riddles capitalized on those opportunities.

“We changed some things and put in a couple new sets that emphasized that the ball had to go in there,” Joyner said. “They were more patient. The guards are getting a little better.” Riddles’ fellow post player Norvel Gabriel was second on the team in scoring with 10 points. Conway hit seven of 11 three-point attempts for the game, including six of nine in the second half.
Jacksonville committed one major lapse early in the third. They quickly built its advantage from 11 points at the start of the half to 18 midway through the third. After that, the Red Devils got sloppy and Conway got hot.

Junior reserves Alex McKnight and Ammon Martin came off the bench to nail five three pointers. Martin his two in the third quarter, while McKnight kept things interesting with three in the fourth. “They got hot but some of that had to do with us,” Joyner said. “We quit doing the things that got us the lead there for a while. Overall though I thought that was of our best games so far. Our defense was good and we disrupted everything they were trying to do. They had a couple kids come off the bench and hit threes, but they weren’t able to do much offensively other than hit long shots. Our defense has really been our bright spot all year. We’re playing pretty good defense.”

Jacksonville forced lots of turnovers and the slower Wampus Cats found themselves reaching and fouling in order to slow down the quicker Red Devils. Unfortunately for Jacksonville, it couldn’t hit free throws. That also helped Conway stay close.
Jacksonville made just six of 18 from the foul line in the game. Conway hit 10 of 15. The Red Devils, now 4-2, played a rematch with Little Rock Central last night after Leader deadlines. They will travel across town Friday for a rematch with North Pulaski.