Leader Blues

Monday, January 22, 2007

SPORTS>> Jacksonville sweeps Sylvan Hills

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville has been strong during county rivalry games this season, and Tuesday night was no exception. Both the Red Devils and Lady Devils came away with big wins against Sylvan Hills at their own Devils Den, grabbing a 6A-East Conference sweep. Senior post Marie Livings helped the Lady Red Devils to a 59-47 win with a dominant performance on the low block. The Red Devils got a similar performance out of Kajuan Watson during their 62-51 win over the Bears. The senior finished with 17 points to lead Jacksonville, and put on an entertaining show offensively while doing it.

Watson scored from almost every spot on the floor, with three straight shots behind the arc in the second quarter, and a strong inside performance in the second half, as the Red Devils slowly stretched their lead to as much as 17 points near the end of the third quarter. Deyonte Davis did a good job of damage control for Sylvan Hills in the final minute. Davis hit a pair of threes before the final buzzer to turn a potential rout into a more respectable margin by game’s end.

Watson’s performance in the opening quarter was a little shaky, with his first three attempts from the floor falling short. His accuracy improved dramatically during the second frame. Watson hit a three-pointer at the 6:31 mark of the second quarter to put Jacksonville up 16-8, and he backed that shot up with two more tres during the next minute to bump the lead up to 22-8.

Sylvan Hills made its strongest run of the game in the final four minutes of the second quarter, recovering from the early double-digit deficit to close to within five points with 1:09 left in the half. Their first break came when Watson fouled Bears guard Tony Robinson as he went up for a three. Robinson hit all three foul shots to make it 24-13, followed by a shot from sophomore P.J. Ross and a three pointer from T.J. Shelton to close to within seven, 26-19. Jacksonville went into the intermission with a 28-21 lead, but shut the Bears down in the third quarter to take over the momentum for the duration of the game.

Sylvan Hills only managed nine points in the third, while Jacksonville increased its advantage back to 11 by the end of the frame. La Quentin Miles set the tone for the Red Devils with the first goal of the second half, followed by a put-back dunk from Watson that put Jacksonville up 32-21. Bears junior post Julian Bassett enjoyed an easy time under the boards last Friday against West Memphis, but found the paint inside the Devils Den much harder to penetrate. Jacksonville senior Norvel Gabriel came away with 10 rebounds, six of them defensive during the game that denied Bassett and the Bears offense of several second chance opportunities.

Jacksonville held a slight edge with shooting and rebounding, but it was the difference in depth from the bench that would prove to be the Red Devils biggest advantage. Devils coach Victor Joyner kept fresh legs on the court at every opportunity, making wholesale lineup changes during foul breaks that kept the more volatile SH lineup on the run for most of the final half.

When Watson and the remaining starters rested on the bench, the underclassmen took up the slack impressively. Sophomore post Antwan Lockhart had a strong second half, with a pair of blocked shots and two jams that lit up the spirited Jacksonville stands. Watson’s 20 points led all scorers in the game for Jacksonville. Gerron Riddles finished with 10 points. Gabriel pulled down 10 rebounds to lead on the boards for the Red Devils. For Sylvan Hills, Davis’ late threes pushed his game total to 18 points, and Shelton added 12 points for the Bears.

The win gives Jacksonville a 10-5 overall record and 2-1 in conference. Sylvan Hills’ record now stands at 5-12 and 2-2 in the 5A-East. The second half also belonged to Jacksonville in the girls game. The Lady Bears took a 26-24 lead at the half with strong outside shooting from Kierra Johnson. Johnson hit a pair of threes in the first quarter for Sylvan Hills, finishing the first two quarters with 10 of her total 19 points. Johnson went cold in the third quarter, and the Lady Red Devils took advantage with eight points from Tarneisha Scott. Johnson started hitting again for the Lady Bears at the start of the fourth quarter, but Jacksonville had built up a 44-32 lead by that point, and Livings kept up the advantage inside with five points in the final 4:37 of the game.

Livings finished with 20 points and the majority of the Lady Devils’ rebounding. Scott had 17 points for Jacksonville, and sophomore Tyra Terry added 10 points for the Lady Red Devils. For Sylvan Hills, Johnson had 19 points and Rachele Dobbins had eight points. The win improved Jacksonville’s record to 5-10 and 1-2 in conference. Sylvan Hills now has a 4-11 overall record and a 0-4 league record. Sylvan Hills played at Forrest City last night, and will host Searcy on Tuesday. Jacksonville faced West Memphis at home last night, and will travel to Mountain Home to take on the Bombers Tuesday.