Leader Blues

Sunday, December 31, 2006

SPORTS >>Devils outlast Overton, in finals

IN SHORT: The Jacksonville Red Devils will make their second straight appearance in the finals of the Red Devil Classic holiday tournament at their own gym.

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

For the second time in two years the Jacksonville Red Devils advanced to the championship game of their own Community Bank Red Devil Classic, which they played last night after Leader deadlines against Olive Branch in Mississippi. Look for details of that game in Wed-nesday’s edition of The Leader.

The first two games were good, but somewhat surprising for Jacksonville.

The Red Devils ran Class AAA Hughes and major prospect Kevin Brown out of the gym Wednesday in round one. Brown alone kept the game close early on, but the Red Devils adjusted and no one else for Hughes stepped up as Jacksonville cruised to a 64-33 victory.

The Red Devils scored 21 straight points over a period of about four and a half minutes that turned a 42-30 lead into a 63-30 lead to bury the now 12-3 Blue Devils.

Brown scored all 12 of the Blue Devils’ points in the first quarter, which ended with Jacksonville leading by one. He also score 15 of their 17 points in the half, but the Red Devils also went cold from the field, and entered halftime leading by only seven points.

The lead stretched to as much as 15 in the third quarter, but Jacksonville settled for a 40-28 lead heading into the final frame.

That’s when things began to take shape for Jacksonville while simultaneously fall apart for Hughes.

Jacksonville adjusted its defense in the second quarter to stop Brown, but it took until the fourth quarter for the strategy to take full effect. Hughes began pressing and forcing shots, while Jacksonville turned up the defensive pressure.

The run began with a pair of layups by senior guard Antwain Robinson. The back-to-back buckets put the Red Devils up 49-30 with 6:05 left in the game, and started a run that wouldn’t stop for the rest of the game.

Twelve Red Devils scored in the game. Leading the way were seniors Kajaun Watson and Norvel Gabriel, who scored 12 each.
Brown finished with 18 points to lead all scorers.

Jacksonville slowly pulled away from Overton High of Memphis to win 59-53 Thursday in the semifinals. Overton beat Woodham High out of Florida in the first round 64-57.

That win was unusual because the Red Devils shot as poorly as they have all season, and still beat a top classification team out of Memphis. The Wolverines were 8-3 coming into the game, but also suffered from cold shooting for long stretches.

With all the missed shots, the difference in the game came down to rebounding, and that’s where Jacksonville dominated, and thereby earned several second-chance points.

The Red Devils held a 48-29 advantage on the boards, including 19 rebounds by Gabriel. He also finished with 17 points to lead the team in both categories.

Jacksonville needed to be strong on the boards, they hit just 20 of 67 shots, and were 0 for 13 from the three-point line.
The game was close through the first three quarters. Neither team led by more than five points until Jacksonville took a 48-42 lead with 1:22 remaining on a pair of free throws by LaMarcus Trask.

That forced Overton to begin fouling, but the Red Devils hit the foul shots. Trask, Gabriel and Robinson combined to hit 12 of 14 fourth-quarter free throws to secure the win.

Jacksonville’s scoring was much more balanced as well. Nine Red Devils scored, but only Gabriel was in double figures. Conversely, three Wolverines scored all but three of their points and only four scored at all.

Point guard Derrick Warren led all scorers with 20 points while post players Sergio Kresch and Rondald Sampson added 16 and 14 respectively.

Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner was as pleased as he’s been all season after the Overton win.

“We still committed some turnovers we shouldn’t have, but they played with a lot of heart,” Joyner said. “We shot terrible, but I’m just happy to see us get 67 shots. They rebounded and just did the things that take heart to do. They hustled and busted their butts out there and beat a very good team on hustle and heart.”

The two wins lifted the Red Devils to 7-4 on the season.

Other first and second round action in the Community Bank Red Devil Classic saw North Pulaski beat Little Rock Catholic, then lose to Olive Branch, Miss. Olive Branch beat Woodham, Fla., in the first round. Overton hammered Little Rock McCellan in round one, and McClellan lost 66-60 to Hughes in the consolation bracket.

Catholic beat Woodham to send the Florida school to the seventh-place game against McClellan. The Rockets took on Hughes yesterday in the consolation game. North Pulaski played Overton in the third-place game.