Leader Blues

Monday, November 26, 2007

SPORTS >>LR Central holds off charging Red Devils

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville basketball team defined not getting over the hump Tuesday night in a 59-58 loss to Little Rock Central. The Red Devils had four possessions in the final minute while down by one point. Two of those came in the final seven seconds. Each time, guard penetration was stopped and a shot in traffic was no good. The last one came just a fraction of a second before the buzzer, and the Tigers got the rebound to seal the win.

Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner was disappointed with his team, not because of a lack of effort, but for a lack of execution.
“We did not run the play I called once in the last minute,” Joyner said. “I called the same play four times and we didn’t run it once. The last two times we had guards that panicked and forced something that wasn’t there. We just didn’t execute when we needed to the most.”

Joyner was proud of the way his team battled defensively and created several fast-break buckets, but he felt the offensive execution was lacking throughout the game.

“When we were forced into a half-court offense, we weren’t patient at all,” Joyner said. “We had guards not waiting for the second option. Our little 6-foot-3 postmen were trying to post up those three trees Central had in the middle and forcing bad shots. If we would’ve just run our offense and kept moving the ball, we could have shot layups. We just weren’t patient.”
Jacksonville took its first lead since early in the second quarter when a Lockhart layup with 6:20 remaining put the Devils up 49-48. A few seconds later, after a defensive stop, senior guard Terrell Eskridge hit two free throws to make it a three-point lead.

That’s when Tiger senior Erick Brooks took over.

Central began utilizing its considerable height advantage for the first time in the third quarter. The Tigers stretched their lead out to as much as seven points in that period before Jacksonville mounted its comeback early in the fourth.

After taking a 51-48 lead, Jacksonville got another defensive stop, but Brooks stole the ball and hit a layup at the other end.
After a Jacksonville miss, no one got back defensively, and Brooks initiated the most exciting play of the night. Leading a fast break, instead of taking the host himself, he careened the ball off the glass for trailing 6-6 teammate Alandise Harris, who caught the ball in the air and slammed it home, igniting both sides of the Devils’ Den.

Harris, though, was called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim, and Jacksonville’s DeShone McClure hit both free throws, giving Jacksonville a 54-53 lead with 4:51 left in the game.

Few points came in the way of field goals over the next couple of minutes. A series of trips to the free-throw line left Jacksonville with a 58-57 lead with 1:48 left, but the Red Devils would not score again.

The game’s final points came in the midst of a wild series. McClure stole the ball from Central, only to have Brooks steal it right back and hit a layup with 37 seconds left to set the final margin.

Jacksonville had three consecutive possessions in the final 37 seconds. The ball never went back to Centrals’ side of the court, but it wasn’t enough.

On the first try, junior forward LeQuitin Miles slipped and fell as he tried to take his man off the dribble. He recovered the loose ball and called timeout with 16 seconds left.

On the second possessions, McClure forced a tough shot that was blocked by Harris (his eighth of the game) into the hands of 6-6 teammate Chukwudi Ekeh, who was fouled.

It was only Jacksonville’s sixth team foul, so the ball was placed under the Jacksonville basket, where Lockhart knocked the inbound pass back into Ekeh’s hands, who was still standing out of bounds.

That gave Jacksonville one last chance, but Eskridge’s looping shot over Harris’ outstretched arms banged off the backboard and into Ekeh’s hands.

The loss dropped Jacksonville to 0-2 on the season.

While Joyner was upset at his team’s execution, he’s still optimistic about its potential.

“A lot of what we did wrong tonight has to do with only practicing an hour a day, and being so inexperienced,” Joyner said. “The one thing I can say is that, for the most part, they battled. We had one or two incidents where we sort of quit, but we’re going to take care of that ASAP, I guarantee you that. As whole, though, this team will battle, and we’ve got some talent. When we get our execution down, when everyone learns their role and we start running our offense like it’s supposed to run, we’re going to be alright.”

Brooks led all scorers in the game with 22 points, but Central coach Oliver Fitzpatrick didn’t like that statistic.

“We got away from going inside and that’s why the game got close again in the fourth quarter,” Fitzpatrick said. “Jacksonville did a good job of making hard on us, but if we would have stayed with that, it shouldn’t have gone down to the wire like that.”

Ekeh added 14 for the Tigers.

Lockhart led the Red Devils with 13 points. Mclure score 11 and Miles added nine.

Jacksonville bested the Tigers in every statistical category except shooting.

Central made 24 of 47 field goals, including six of 12 from three-point range, while Jacksonville made just 22 of 58, including three of 12 from outside.

Jacksonville out-rebounded the Tigers 28-20, got 10 steals to just four for Central, and forced 19 turnovers while committing just 14. Seven of those came in the second quarter alone.

The Lady Red Devils fell 68-34 to the Lady Tigers, but the game wasn’t as one-sided as the score may indicate. Central didn’t reach the mercy rule limit until late, and there was never a huge run that put the Lady Red Devils away.

Central slowly and steadily added to its lead throughout the contest.

Jacksonville will be back in action next Tuesday when it travels to crosstown rival North Pulaski.