SPORTS >>Tigers rally, beat Red Devils
By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor
Jacksonville dropped a pair of games at home to Little Rock Central Tuesday night in the Devils’ Den. The Red Devils fell for the second time to the Tigers.
They lost 60-59 earlier in the year at Central; Tuesday they lost 64-58 despite dominating the early going and jumping out to a 13-3 lead.
Jacksonville’s inside game did much of the damage early on. Post players Gerron Riddles and Norvel Gabriel each got buckets out of the offense, while forward Kajaun Watson scored in almost every way. He once drove the baseline for a bucket, hit a three and got a layup out of transition.
Trailing by 10 just three minutes into the game, Central called timeout. The comeback wasn’t immediate as both teams traded several turnovers for the next couple of minutes. Then Arthur King checked into the game for the Tigers, and got them right back into it.
King hit two quick three pointers, one from about 28 feet, to turn a 10-point margin into four in about 55 seconds.
Joyner commended King for the hot shooting, but thought his team should have been much farther ahead by that point.
“We had six possessions where we could have gone up 20, or more,” Joyner said. “Instead, we get crazy and start dribbling around and not running the offense. We stopped them on defense several times, but never could capitalize because we weren’t running our sets.”
By the end of the quarter, Jacksonville’s lead had shrunk to 15-11. It was a back-and-forth game for most of the quarter, and Central finally tied it up at 26-26 with 30 seconds left in the half. That score remained until halftime, but the Tigers came out hot in the third.
Central scored just a few seconds into the third quarter to take its first lead of the game. Jacksonville tied a few seconds later, but the Tiger guards harassed Jacksonville into two straight turnovers, which Central turned into two layups and a free throw for a 33-28 lead.
Jacksonville called timeout, and afterwards cut the margin to 35-33, but Central put together another run to move ahead 43-35, its biggest lead of the game, with 2:39 left in the third.
From that point, Jacksonville answered with a 9-0 salvo to reclaim the lead at 44-43 by the end of the quarter.
Again it was Watson that put the team on his back, scoring seven points during the run, but he disappeared in the fourth quarter.
Central clamped down on Watson, and the game turned into a free-throw shooting contest early in the fourth.
After all the free throws were traded, Jacksonville’s Damien Akins hit a three pointer that put the Red Devils up 56-54 with four minutes left in the game.
Central then scored the next five points, all by Eric Brooks, to take a 59-56 lead. Gabriel hit a bucket to make it 61-58 with 2:05 remaining, but it would be the last points Jacksonville would score.
Brooks made it seven straight to put the margin back at three points with 1:21 left.
Watson missed a jumper and Jacksonville fouled Keith Free-man with 31 seconds to go. He made one of two, but Watson missed again and Brooks got the rebound. Akins was then called for an intentional foul with 16 seconds left that effectively ended any hopes for a Red Devil win.
“I’m not mad at ‘em,” Joyner said. “There’s no reason to get mad at ‘em. If we can just learn to take care of the ball, we’re going to have a chance to win some games. We’re averaging 25 turn-overs a game and have had a chance to win all of ‘em but one. We always lose games in the last two or three minutes. They got to learn quick though, because time is getting short.”
Watson led all scorers with 18 points while Akins came off the bench to score 12 for Jacksonville.
Anthony Hurvey led the Tigers with 17 while Freeman scored 14. Brooks added 13 and King came off the bench to chip in 10 points.
Jacksonville dropped to 4-4 on the year while Central improved to 10-2.
The Lady Devils fell behind big early before mounting a comeback in the second quarter. Eventually the Lady Tigers were able to pull away for good and won the game 59-42.
Central ran out to a 9-0 lead, making it very difficult for the Jacksonville guards to get the ball up the court and the offense into the sets.
Jacksonville called timeout, and was able to get on track afterward.
The Jacksonville post players took over, and got the Lady Red Devils back into the game. Jacksonville dwindled Central’s lead to 17-13 by quarter’s end, with senior post Marie Livings doing the bulk of the scoring.
Livings proved a problem for Central throughout the game, but the Lady Tigers guards found the answer, to score without taking the ball inside.
Central did that by creating transition buckets off steals, beating Jacksonville back after missed shots, and shooting from the outside.
Jacksonville committed 25 turnovers while Central made four of their five threes in the second half.
Central again led by nine, 29-20, by halftime, and slowly extended that lead the rest of the game.
Livings led all scorers and rebounders with 17 and 11 respectively. Fellow post player Tarneshia Scott added 12 points.
Only two other Lady Devils scored in the game. Chunky Billingslea scored seven while Markela Bell added six.
Jacksonvilled dropped to 2-7 while Central improved to 6-4.
Jacksonville played North Pulaski last night after Leader deadlines.
Look for details of those games in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.