Leader Blues

Monday, January 21, 2008

SPORTS >> Devils remain perfect in league

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

It’s hard to imagine a storied rivalry like Jacksonville and Sylvan Hills coming down to a simple battle of the defensive glass, but that was the reality on Tue-sday night at the SHHS gymnasium. The Red Devils controlled the low block all night, limiting SH shooting opportunites on their way to a 49-39 win in 6A-East Conference action.

Jacksonville began to break the game open in the last four minutes of the second quarter, but had to survive a final gasp from the Bears at the start of the fourth quarter to secure the victory.

“Our big guys are coming on,” Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner said after the game. “They didn’t have the best game tonight, but they have took it upon themselves to battle hard for the third game in a row. That made a pretty big difference for us tonight.”

The game did not have the classic Red Devils-Bears look, something Joyner blamed on lack of intensity from both sides.
“It was just an odd-feeling game,” Joyner said. “You know, there just wasn’t that much intensity from either side, I thought. I want these guys to come out with more intensity, and I know that (SH) coach (Kevin) Davis wanted to see more intensity out of his players. We had intensity in spurts, but it never lasted long enough.”

The SH shooting woes continued on Tuesday, but the Bears began to find their way to the hoop in the fourth quarter. Back-to-back baskets by P.J. Ross and Kai Randolph cut Jacksonville’s lead to 39-33. A walking violation for Jacksonville handed the ball back to the Bears, and Harold Ward took advantage with a quick jumper off an inbounds play from Jacob Clark. That closed what was once an 11-point lead for the Red Devils down to a 39-35 advantage, but junior post Cortrell Eskridge finished the game from there the same way he started out — strong under the boards.

Cortrell was not alone in his quest to out-rebound the Bears. Solid rebounding from Demetrious Harris and Terrell Eskridge went largely unanswered by Sylvan Hills. Randolph led the Bears with six rebounds on the night, while all three JHS big men pulled down seven or more, along with four rebounds each for Antonio Roy and junior post Antwan Lockhart.

The Eskridges combined for two sraight baskets, including a putback for Cortrell at the 3:13 mark that extended the lead back to nine at 43-35. He then added another shot after a Bears timeout to put the Devils back to a double-digit advantage.

Whatever momentum Sylvan Hills found to start the final period quickly evaporated, as the Red Devils kept the ball out of their rivals’ hands for the most part during the final three minutes of play, and hit 5 of 8 free throws down the stretch.

“We had been shooting free throws badly,” Joyner said. “But everybody has been working really hard in practice to raise their percentage. I thought that showed up pretty well tonight."

LaQuentin Miles led the Red Devils with 12 points, including 6 of 8 at the free-throw line. DeShone McClure added 11 points for Jacksonville. For the Bears, Davis led with 12 points, with eight points from Ross.

The win improved Jacksonville to 6-9 overall and 3-0 in the 6A-East Conference. The Bears fell to 5-11 overall and 0-3 in conference with the loss.

Jacksonville girls 65, Sylvan Hills 55

The ladies’ opener was more up to snuff with the rivalry factor, as the Lady Red Devils relied on a solid transition game in the third quarter to down Sylvan Hills 65-55. The Lady Bears’ defense did a great job of containing JHS standout Crystal Washington in the first half, limiting her to a single goal before intermission.

That all changed at the start of the third quarter, as turnovers and solid defensive rebounding inside for Jacksonville, along with an SH press that left too many gaps, led to five fast breaks for the Lady Devils, three of which led to easy shots off the glass by Washington.

Washington and junior forward Tyra Terry put their speed to work for Jacksonville, speed that Sylvan Hills had little answer for.
“They started coming at us with heavy ball pressure,” Lady Red Devils coach Katrina Mimms said. “But Crystal made some good points for us off those layups. We’re not a fast team through and through, but we have a couple of players who can really light it up if the situation is right.”

For Sylvan Hills coach Bee Rodden, it was another disappointment in a season full of near misses for her young squad.
“We beat ourselves, bottom line,” Rodden said. “We let them have three easy transition breaks, and then took two stupid shots, and that was pretty much it for us. We’ve had lack of effort at the post for a few games now, and it’s pretty hard to win if no one’s working the block. Sharonda Sullivan stepped up for us tonight and made some good three-point baskets, but we need more consistency inside.”

Terry and Kita Walker led Jacksonville with 12 points each. Washington and Sherice Randell each had 11 points, and Jessica Lanier rounded out double-digit scorers for the Lady Devils with 10 points.

For Sylvan Hills, Latrina Brandon and Sullivan each had 12 points, with all of Sullivan’s points coming from three-point baskets. Terica Kendrick rounded out high scorers for the Lady Bears with 11 points.