Leader Blues

Monday, December 10, 2007

SPORTS >>JHS win gets the monkey off back

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils put a W in the record books Tuesday night in the first round of the Conway Invitational. The Red Devils beat Morrilton 58-39. In the process they showed signs of the team head coach Victor Joyner wants to see.

“The defense played a lot better,” Joyner said. “We gave up 80 points in our last game, so to come out there and only give up 39 was obviously a big improvement.”

The Red Devils jumped out early and maintained a sizeable advantage for the rest of the contest.

Full-court pressure created steals and easy transition buckets in the first quarter. Junior forward LaQuinton Miles was the benefactor of many of those breakaways. He sparked the first-quarter run with 11 of his game-high 16 points in the opening frame, including a pair of transition dunks.

Jacksonville led 23-12 at the end of one period, but failed to put Morrilton away until the fourth.

The second quarter resembled the first defensively. Jacksonville continued to create turnovers, but failed to convert the turnovers into points.

“We didn’t put them away because we started making a bunch of mistakes,” Joyner said. “We’re just trying to be more aggressive right now and I think we did that. It’s just our inexperience that’s getting in the way right now. We’re going to have to play our way into shape and play our way into some experience. We’re being aggressive defensively, but we’re forgetting to box out on the shot. We got too many guys running up the floor before we have the ball. We’re probably going to keep making mistakes for a while, but if we’ll continue to be aggressive, some of that other stuff will come along. We got to learn to crash the boards harder too. The Devil Dogs cut into the Red Devils’ lead by halftime, but only by two points. Jacksonville went into intermission leading 34-25.

The margin grew back to 11 by the end of the third at 46-35, but the Red Devil defense clamped down again in the fourth quarter and allowed just four points. Jacksonville’s superior depth aided the fourth-quarter run.

“We played everybody,” Joyner said. “We played about 12 guys and we had ‘em pretty gassed in the fourth quarter. We got ‘em sped up and out of their game plan. There were some positive things to come out of this win. It’s always important to get that first win.”

Miles’ 16 led all scorers. DeShone McClure added 11 for the Red Devils.

The victory lifted Jacksonville to 1-3 on the season. They played tournament host Conway last night after Leader deadlines, and will finish the tournament today in either the tournament championship or the third-place game.

The Lady Red Devils lost their first-round game to the hosting Lady Wampus Cats. They will also be in action today to close out the tournament.