SPORTS >>Red Devils outlast Bombers
By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor
Whether it’s the state’s top team, or a team that’s 10 games under .500, it’s never uneventful at Jacksonville’s Devils’ Den. The Red Devils got another heartpounding victory Tuesday night, a 78-75 double-overtime thriller against Mountain Home.
The Bombers had beaten Jack-sonville in overtime earlier this year in Baxter County. This time, the visiting team had its back against the wall, and wouldn’t go down without a fight.
Mountain Home’s Kyle Minton hit three pointers at the end of regulation and the second overtime to keep his team’s playoff hopes alive. A Bomber playoff berth was a long shot even with a win. With a loss, the team was eliminated from contention.
Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner knew a team in that situation was dangerous, and tried to convey that to his players late in regulation.
“I told them during a timeout that they weren’t going to get tired,” Joyner said. “They’re playing for their playoff lives, and they weren’t going to even notice fatigue. That was a heck of a high-school basketball game. Those kids (Mountain Home) played their hearts out and forced my guys to dig deep. That was a great game.”
Mountain Home led for most of the first half. Garrett Wilhite went the length of the court and hit an uncontested layup to give his team a 28-25 lead at intermission.
The Bombers then went on an 8-0 run early in the third to stretch their lead to 38-29, forcing Jacksonville to call a timeout with 5:03 on the clock.
Jacksonville’s Antwan Lock-hart scored out of the break, but was answered by Brandon Pfeifer at the other end, making it 40-31.
That’s when the Red Devils finally turned it on.
Jacksonville’s Kajuan Watson was fouled by Wilhite attempting a fastbreak layup after a steal. Wilhite mouthed about the call and was hit with a technical foul. Watson hit three of the four foul shots, and Gerron Riddles scored underneath to make it 40-36.
LaMark Trask then got a steal and dished to Watson for a three. After a Bomber miss, Watson nailed another three pointer and was fouled with 30 seconds left in the quarter.
He hit the free throw to complete a 17-0 run and give the Red Devils a 48-40 lead.
Mountain Home’s Brad Butler finally ended the run with a bucket just before the buzzer to make it a six-point game going into the fourth quarter.
Mountain Home’s Bob Durr hit a three to start the fourth, and the game stayed close for the next several minutes.
A driving bucket by Terrell Eskridge gave Jacksonville some breathing room at 58-51 with three minutes remaining in regulation. It didn’t last long. Winton hit his third three of the game just 22 seconds later. Eskridge then hit two free throws and Pfeifer answered to make it 60-56.
Jacksonville turned it over going for an alley-oop, and Pfeifer made it a two-point game with 1:08 left.
Mountain sent Lockhart to the line, who made one of two with 1:02 left. Winton then nailed a three pointer and Jacksonville called timeout with 15 seconds left.
Eskridge missed a running jumper at the buzzer, sending it to overtime.
Lockhart started the extra frame with a big dunk, and Mountain Home tried to give the game away. Pfeifer missed two free throws on one possession, then stepped out of bounds on the next, but Jacksonville was unable to make the Bombers pay for the mistakes. Eskridge finally scored with 2:10 left. The two teams then traded a free throw each, then traded turnovers.
Durr ended the drought with a pair of free throws to make it 66-65 with 40 seconds left.
Eskridge then hit two free throws, setting up Minton’s second game extender, this time from about 28 feet out with 14 seconds on the clock.
Watson penetrated at the other end, but stepped out of bounds trying to go baseline. The Bombers had a shot at winning it. Durr drove the length of the court with little resistence, but his runner from the free-throw line was too strong off the backboard.
Jacksonville finally took control from the foul line when the Bombers finally went cold from outside in the second overtime.
Trask scored a bucket to start the extra frame, and the Red Devils stretched out a 76-69 lead with 44 seconds left, but the Bombers still made it interesting.
Wilhite hit a three with 37 seconds remaining, then fouled Damien Akins, who hit one of two. Ryan Pitts then nailed another three from the corner under tight coverage to make it 77-75 with 14 seconds left.
Trask then hit one of two, and Jacksonville made sure not to let the ball get into Minton’s hands. Durr took the final shot, but it was short.
Watson led all scorers with 21 points while Pfeifer led the Bombers with 20.
Eskridge added 16 for Jack-sonville while Norvel Gabriel scored 12.
Minton finished with 15 for the Bombers while Butler and Durr added 12 each.
The win lifted Jacksonville to 13-10 overall and 7-6 in conference play. Mountain Home fell to 9-19 and 3-10 in league play.
The Red Devils dropped their season finale at home to Jonesboro Thursday night to fall to 13-11 and 7-7. The loss, coupled with Searcy’s win over West Memphis, puts the Red Devils as the No. 4 seed from the 6A-East in the state tournament that takes place next week at Jonesboro High School.
Jacksonville will face off with El Dorado, the No. 5 seed from the 6A-South.