SPORTS >>Devils advance with win
By RAY BENTON
Leader sports writer
JONESBORO — The Jacksonville Red Devils got off to a very late start to their first round Class 6A state tournament game against El Dorado Wednesday in Jonesboro, but they departed from the norm and took care of business early in a 57-51 win that advanced the team to the state quarterfinals for the first time in several years.
Jacksonville grabbed an early lead only to watch it dissipate in the third quarter, but the Red Devils reclaimed control and put the game away midway through the fourth when they went up by 10 on a three-point play by junior point guard Tirrell Eskridge.
The scheduled 8:30 p.m. tip-off didn’t get started until 10:20 thanks to two overtime games earlier in the day. Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner was not a man of many words after the win.
“It’s so late I’m just glad everybody stayed awake,” Joyner said. “We’re going to be so tired, and a team like Hall coming up. It’s going to be an uphill battle.”
The Red Devils didn’t make themselves climb any mountains in the fourth quarter Wednesday, although the Wildcats did keep it close most of the way.
El Dorado trailed by four early in the third quarter when post player Donovan Shaw got hot from mid range. Shaw scored 10 points in the third, including eight straight for the Wildcats that gave his team a one-point lead twice in the period.
Each time Shaw gave El Dorado the lead, however, Jacksonville senior Norvel Gabriel answered with a bucket to take it right back for the Red Devils.
Despite Shaw’s best efforts, Jacksonville finished the period up 41-39 and never trailed in the final frame.
The first two minutes of the fourth were marred by El Dorado misses and Jacksonville turnovers. Kajuan Watson finally put an end to the scoring drought with two free throws at the six-minute mark.
El Dorado pulled within one when a Shaw free throw and a bucket by Kelvin Steward made it 43-42 with 4:29 left. After a bucket by Red Devil post Antwan Lockhart, El Dorado trimmed it to one point again, this time with a layup by post player Martezo Rogers. That’s when Jacksonville began to pull away.
Post player Gerron Riddles scored to make it 47-44 with 3:05 left. After Rogers missed the front end of a one-and-one, Gabriel took a pass off a penetration and dish by Eskridge and drained a three pointer to match the Red Devils’ biggest lead of the game.
Shaw missed at the other end, and Eskridge got behind the Wildcat defense. He took an outlet pass from Gabriel off the rebound, hit the layup and added a free throw to put the Red Devils up 53-44 with 1:26 to go to seal the win for Jacksonville.
Trask would add another free throw to make it a 10-point game after another Wildcat miss. Gabriel, Watson and Eskridge finished the scoring for Jacksonville from the free-throw line. Jeremy Green hit a three at the buzzer for El Dorado to set the final margin.
Shaw led all scorers with 20 points, 18 of which came in the second half. Green added 13 for El Dorado.
Riddles led the Red Devils with 14 points and was the only one of 10 Red Devils to score in the game to hit double figures. Gabriel added eight points and eight rebounds while Eskridge finished with seven points.
Jacksonville out-rebounded El Dorado 32-24.
The Red Devils advanced to play No. 1 ranked Little Rock Hall, the team that knocked them out of the state tournament last year, Friday night. Look for details of that game, and any subsquent games from the Class 6A state tournament in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.