SPORTS >>Red Devils shake road woes, topple Sylvan Hills
By RAY BENTON
Leader sports writer
Jacksonville got a clean sweep on the road at Sylvan Hills Tuesday night. The girls won a close contest while the boys took a 54-44 victory for their first conference road win of the season.
The Lady Bears mounted a rally in the fourth quarter that turned an eight-point Jacksonville lead into a one-point Sylvan Hills lead with 5:23 left in the game.
Jacksonville quickly reclaimed the lead, but Sylvan Hills’ Rochelle Dobbins hit a free throw with 1:57 left to put the Lady Bears up 43-42. It would be the last points for the home team until a meaningless shot at the buzzer set the final margin, despite several opportunities.
The first came when Dobbins got the rebound of her own miss on the second attempt of the same trip to the line. The putback attempt was no good, teammate Brianna Austin got the rebound and missed, SH’s Myesha Harris got that board and was fouled on the floor.
She missed the front end of a one-and-one, but got her own rebound only to miss the putback attempt.
Jacksonville turned the ball over at the other end of the floor, and Dobbins was fouled driving to the basket. She missed both free throws and Jacksonville’s Marleka Bell got the rebound.
Bell’s outlet pass went to junior Morgan Waits, who hit a layup to put the Lady Devils back in front 44-43.
Sylvan Hills missed a shot, but Waits walked at the other end with 23 seconds left.
Austin then missed a short jumper and Lady Devil Marie Livings got the rebound and was fouled with nine seconds remaining.
She hit both free throws to make it 46-43, then Bell stole the inbound pass and hit an uncontested layup with six seconds left to put the game out of reach.
Dobbins ran down the court for the three that set the final margin.
Absent from much of the action in the final two minutes, Lady Red Devil post Tarneshia Scott made her presence known throughout the game.
Scott finished with 24 points and 18 rebounds. She, Waits and Livings combined to hit 17 of 20 free throws. Livings made all five of her attempts from the line.
The win lifts Jacksonville to 2-9 in conference play, and one game behind Jonesboro for the final spot in the state tournament.
Sylvan Hills fell to 0-10 in conference play.
The boys game was also close most of the way. Jacksonville started the game with a big size advantage, and it only got bigger when Bear post players T.J. Shelton and Lamar Bassett got into foul trouble.
Jacksonville seized the opportunity quickly, and post players Gerron Riddles and Antwan Lockhart began scoring inside.
Jacksonville took a 24-19 lead into halftime, and stretched it to 10 early in the third quarter. Shelton and Bassett sat the entire third period, but after the Red Devils’ initial run, shots stopped falling, especially from the inside.
After taking the 10-point lead, Jacksonville committed four turnovers on consecutive possessions without taking a shot.
Unfortunately for the home team, Sylvan Hills was having an even harder time getting shots to fall. In the same time span, the Bears missed six shots that could have cut into Jacksonville’s lead.
Finally after a three minute span of neither team scoring, Jacksonville’s Norvel Gabriel hit two free throws after Shelton’s fourth foul to make it 38-26 with 7:10 left in the game.
From that point, the Bears started finding the range, but so did Jacksonville. The two teams traded baskets and the lead stayed around eight to 10 points until inside of a minute. The Bears rallied to within 49-44 on a Chris Wallace three with 35 seconds left, but Jacksonville’s Kajuan Watson and Antonio Washington hit four straight free throws to set the final margin.
Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner was glad to see his team finally get the road monkey off its back.
“We made some plays down the stretch this time that we hadn’t been making,” Joyner said. “We had a chance to put them away in the third quarter but started turning it over and missing little chip shots. We have to get better at putting teams away, but we did make plays at the end to keep them from getting back in it and having a chance to win. I think they grew up a little in this game. I’m proud of ‘em.”
Despite the size disadvantage and their two biggest players on the bench much of the time, the Bears out-rebounded the usually strong rebounding Red Devils 27-26. Bear coach Kevin Davis lauded praise on his team for effort, but lamented the shooting woes.
“It’s been somewhat our Achilles’ heel,” Davis said. “We’ve struggled to score all year. To quote a coach we beat here last year, ‘an old coach told me one time, at some point you’ve got to make some shots’. That’s about what it boils down to. You can do everything else well, but if you don’t make some shots, it’s hard to win the game.”
Sylvan Hills took 21 more shots than Jacksonville. The Bears made just 18 of their 62 attempts while Jacksonville hit 19 of 41.
The win lifts the Red Devils to 5-6 in league play while Sylvan Hills fell to 4-6. The Bears will make up their game with Forrest City Saturday, a day after taking on Jonesboro. Jacksonville hosted West Memphis last night after Leader deadlines.