Leader Blues

Monday, February 05, 2007

SPORTS >>History repeats at Searcy

IN SHORT: For the second straight year, the 6A-East game between the Red Devils and the Lions in Searcy was marred by questionable calls late in the contest.

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

In most basketball games across Arkansas, one team visits another and the kids in uniform get to settle the matter of winner and loser, but when Jacksonville visits Searcy’s “Jungle”, controversy seems to follow them through the door.

It’s typically the boys games that carry the bulk of it, and that was the case again in the Lions’ 64-63 overtime victory Tuesday night.

The controversy came to a head on the very last play of the game. Jacksonville senior Antwain Robinson entered the game during a timeout with seven seconds left as Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner was drawing up the last play.

Robinson ended up on the wrong side of the court from where the play dictated, with the ball in his hands with four seconds left.

He penetrated to the free-throw line, drew some contact, but as he went up for what may or may not have been the game-winning shot, a whistle blew and Robinson was called for a travel, giving Searcy the ball with one second remaining and consequently a big home win to improve to 4-3 in league play.

When Jacksonville played at Searcy last year, Joyner was ejected for storming the court and vehemently accusing an official of cheating his players. Joyner was later proved correct when an investigation revealed the official in question had been heard prior to the game saying he was going to do just that.

No such investigation is likely this time, and although Joyner was visibly upset, he kept his comments to himself.

“The kids played hard,” Joyner said. “That’s what we’re supposed to say, so that’s what I’m going to say. We could have shot free throws better and that would have made a difference, but you would at least like to see the kids that have played so hard get to decide the game. But that’s all I’m saying. My kids played hard, and the Searcy kids played hard. I’m taking nothing away from those Searcy kids.”

Searcy led throughout the first quarter, but Jacksonville took their first lead with 7:15 left in the second quarter when Kajuan Watson hit a three.

Watson and Searcy’s Matt Cramblett engaged in a duel throughout the game.

Watson went on to score 13 point in the second quarter, and Jacksonville held its lead, although never more than four points, until the overtime period.

The Red Devils led 52-48 with 1:35 remaining, but let the Lions hang in the game by missing free throws. The Red Devils made five of 10 free-throw attempts in the final 3:30 of the game.

Cramblett made it a two-point game with a bucket at the 1:23 mark, and Norvel Gabriel was fouled at the other end. He hit one of two to make it a three-point game, but Searcy’s Cody Wilmath hit a short jumper to make it 53-52 with :56 showing on the clock.

Searcy again fouled, and this time Terrell Eskridge hit one of two, paving the way for the game’s first controversial call.
Cramblett was fouled at the line while driving. His shot went up, but was blocked by Antwan Lockhart.

The basket was counted, although it appeared Cramblett was still on the floor. After a referee conference, it was ruled that Cramblett was in the act of shooting, and that Lockhart goal tended.

Cramblett missed the free throw, however, setting up a final attempt by the Red Devils.

Eskridge penetrated and got a good look, but his runner sailed long at the buzzer.

The overtime period was a thriller, with the two teams trading buckets like battleships’ salvos.

Searcy took its first lead since the first quarter when Cramblett penetrated for a layup to open the overtime. Eskridge answered with two foul shots, but the Red Devils didn’t get back on defense, and Justin Rowden got an easy layup on a run out to put the Lions back up.

Gabriel then tied it with a jumper in the lane with 2:46 left, Rowden answered 20 seconds later. Jacksonville got the lead back when sophomore guard Antonio Washington hit a driving runner and a subsequent free throw. Wilmath answered that to make it 62-61 with 1:57 on the clock.

Gabriel then missed a wide open look from about six feet, but teammate LaMarcus Trask got the offensive rebound and stickback to put the Red Devils up 63-62 with 1:10 on the clock.

Cramblett was then fouled and hit one of two to tie the game with 59 seconds left. Watson then missed a three and Searcy’s Caleb Taylor got the rebound. He was fouled with 11 seconds remaining in OT, and hit one of two. Jacksonville called timeout with seven seconds left to set up the final play that never materialized.

Searcy coach Roger Franks said all the free throws Jacksonville shot in the fourth quarter were by design.

“We felt like their big guys could hurt us, so we said during the timeout that if they got it down low to foul them,” Franks said. “We’d rather make them hit their free throws than give them looks right there next to the basket.”

Watson led all scorers with 25 points while Cramblett finished with 24.

The win lefts Searcy to 4-3 in the conference race while Jacksonville stumbled to 2-5.

All of last night’s games were canceled, so heading into the weekend, Forrest City leads the league at 7-0. Jonesboro is 6-1 and Searcy is third at 4-3.

Marion and Sylvan Hills are 3-4, Mountain Home and Jacksonville are 2-5 while West Memphis is in last place at 1-6.

The Red Devils still have to go to Marion, but will play six of their last seven conference games at home.

Searcy won the girls game 67-34 over an ever-increasingly depleted Lady Devil lineup.

Searcy’s Kallie Bartee led the way for the Lady Lions with 25 points. Kayla Medley added 15. Tarneshia Scott led Jacksonville with 16 while Marleka Bell added 12.

Searcy improved to 5-2 in league play and is tied with Mountain Home for second place. West Memphis leads the league at 7-0. Forrest City is 4-3 while Jonesboro is 3-4 and Marion is 2-5. Jacksonville is 1-6 while Sylvan Hills is 0-7.