Leader Blues

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

SPORTS>>Jacksonville upset by West Memphis

Leader sportswriter

Perennial powerhouse West Memphis had lost its first four conference games, and looked to be an easy road opponent for Jacksonville. That wasn’t the case. The Blue Devils completely overhauled their system in an attempt to improve a spiraling season, and caught the Red Devils off guard en route to a 60-57 overtime victory. Jacksonville was not expecting the kind of slow, deliberate pace that West Memphis ran Friday night and had trouble adjusting. Making matters worse was the fact that leading scorer Kajaun Watson sat more minutes than he played due to foul trouble.

“They probably threw 20 passes per possession,” Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner said. “Sometimes I bet it was 30. They were running a lot of that Princeton stuff, a lot of cutters and backdoor screens. We were the first ones they did that too, so the rest of the conference is going to have to get ready for a different team from now on.” The Red Devils tried to increase the pace of the game, but fouls hindered them all night. Jacksonville was called for 27 fouls, but good team depth left only one player, Watson, fouled out at the end.

Even with the different offense and the foul trouble, Jacksonville had its chances. The best one came with 15 seconds left and the game tied at 49. Jacksonville guard Terrell Eskridge had two free throws for the lead, but missed both. West Memphis missed a shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. Jacksonville trailed by three with 14 seconds left in overtime when West Memphis lost the ball out of bounds, but two three pointers missed the mark leaving the Blue Devils with their first conference win of the season, and dropping Jacksonville to 2-2.

Early in the third quarter, Jacksonville succeeded temporarily in increasing the pace. The Red Devils forced a couple of quick turnovers and briefly took a two-point lead. A third steal by LaMarcus Trask left him set up for a layup, but the ball was knocked loose as Trask was shoved forward. West Memphis took the ball the other way, hit a layup and got a foul to reclaim a one-point lead. Jacksonville never led again.

“That play sort of took the wind out of us for a little bit,” Joyner said. “After that we never could get it sped back up because the game was being stopped to shoot free throws every minute. “We didn’t handle that very well. We weren’t shooting well from the outside, but we weren’t throwing it inside again for some reason, I think we threw it in there maybe six times. This team, because of the inexperience, just isn’t patient enough. We got behind, so they started shooting and rushing shots.”
That’s not to say Joyner didn’t find a few things to brag about. Joyner was pleased with the play he got from two sophomore guards, Antonio Washington and LaQuentin Miles.

“They still have to learn to be more patient, but they played pretty well,” Joyner said. “Washington didn’t go crazy out there and throw the ball away. He played under control and did a pretty good job. LaQuentin took some good shots and penetrated well. They just weren’t going in for him. It’s good that guys are stepping up because we’re going to need them.”
Jacksonville has won just one game away from home all season, and that must change this week if it hopes to stay in the conference race.

Due to new bleachers being installed in the Devils’ Den at Jacksonville, the Red Devils won’t play another home game until Feb. 3. “We’re going to have to learn how to deal with being away from home, how to deal with calls on the road. It’s just different. Nothing’s familiar and we’re going to have to learn how to deal with that.”

West Memphis shot more than twice as many free throws as Jacksonville, but the Red Devils did themselves no favors with the opportunities they had. The Blue Devils hit 24 of 35 attempts while Jacksonville made just nine of 17. Eskridge led a balanced scoring attack for Jacksonville with seven points. Six others finished with six for the Red Devils, who are now 9-7 overall and 2-2 in conference play.

Smith’s 17 points led West Memphis, 6-10, 1-4. The Lady Red Devils had no answer at all for the 16-3 Lady Blue Devils. West Memphis was already up by a mercy-rule margin by halftime at 46-13, and went on to win 84-31. Tarneshia Scott led Jacksonville with 18 points. Jacksonville was at Mountain Home last night after Leader deadlines. They will travel to league-leading Jonesboro Friday.