Leader Blues

Saturday, January 12, 2008

SPORTS >> Devils roll over Mustangs

Leader sports editor

Lots of new faces. Same old Forrest City-Jacksonville intensity.

At least for the first three periods. After that, it was all Red Devils, who went on to post a 67-43 win over last year’s state runner-up Mustangs on Friday night at the Devils Den.

“For us this game is huge, because of how the preseason went,” said Jacksonville head coach Vic Joyner, whose team limped out of the gates with a 3-9 record. “Everybody is trying to learn their places. We’re making adjustments after our rough preseason. I thought everyone played within themselves tonight.”

The clearest sign that the Red Devils are beginning to understand the system and their roles in it was the 15 assists in 25 field goals against the Mustangs. Cortrell Eskridge handed out five, brother Terrell dished out four and Laquinton Miles added three more.

“Before, we weren’t being patient and we were forcing shots,” Joyner said. “We lost games we should have won because of decision making. They finally look like they’re buying in.”

The Red Devils, who improved to 2-0 in 6A-East play and 5-9 overall, couldn’t have gotten off to a faster start on Friday, making six of their first eight shots and dominating the glass to surge to a 25-14 led after one period. Though Forrest City closed the overall rebounding gap, Jacksonville lead 14-5 on the boards after one period.

Three straight buckets by Miles, including a jam, a runner in the lane and a layup off a great feed from DesShone McClure extended the lead to 15 late in the half, and Jacksonville led 37-22 at the half. The Devils committed only two turnovers before intermission and went inside to connect on 16 of 28 field goals.

But Forrest City was hardly done for the night and, though Miles got another slam dunk to open the third period, the Mustangs began to make their run. Junior guard Jesse Mitchell scored three straight baskets, then added a three pointer and a 16-footer along the baseline to narrow the gap to 45-40 with 1:30 left in the period.

Off the bench came Demetrius Harris, who take a long pass from Miles and banked in a 30-footer at the buzzer to extend the lead to eight heading into the final period.

That launched a 16-1 Jacksonville run that pushed the lead to 20 with just under two minutes remaining.

By then, Jacksonville had put the clamps on Mitchell, thanks mostly to the defense of Cortrell Eskridge, who blocked two of Mitchell’s shots and shut him out in the final period. In fact, the Mustangs managed only three points in the fourth quarter.

“[Mitchell] is the real deal,” Joyner said. “That mid-range jump shot is a lost art. We wanted to get some length on him. Cortrell blocked a couple of shots and altered a couple of others.”

Jacksonville made 25-of-42 shots and committed only eight turnovers. What had Joyner extra pleased was the inside play of Antonio Roy and Antwan Lockhart.

“Antonio came off the bench and stepped up,” said Joyner of the 6-3 junior who scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds. “He’s another one just learning and accepting his role. We weren’t getting post scoring early. Now we’re being more effective in the post and taking pressure of the guards.”

Lockhart added 10 points and four rebounds. Cortrell Eskridge led the way with 13 points, while Miles added 12 points and seven rebounds. McClure was the fifth Red Devil in double figures with 10 points.

“To these kids’ credit, as young as they are, it would have been easy to fold their tents,” Joyner said. “They might have had some doubts the way the season started. But they kept coming to practice hungry to learn. I really have to give them credit for that.”

Jacksonville outrebounded Forrest City 32-25 and limited the Mustangs to 18-of-51 shooting.
The Red Devils head to Sylvan Hills on Tuesday.

Forrest City 59, Jacksonville Girls 34

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils hung with an ever-improving Forrest City team for one period. Then the turnovers began to mount and so did the Lady Mustangs’ lead.

Jacksonville fell to 5-9 overall and 0-2 in the 6A-East Conference after 27 turnovers led to a 59-34 loss at the Devils’ Den.
About the only good thing head coach Katrina Mimms could take from this one was a draw on the boards with the Lady Mustangs.

“If we’d have handled the ball a little better, I thought our inside could handle their inside,” she said.

The Lady Devils got nine boards from and six points from Kita Walker, and seven rebounds from guard Tyra Terry. But that wasn’t nearly enough to overcome the miscues. Jacksonville had 17 turnovers at intermission. Despite eight turnovers in the first quarter, the Lady Devils trailed only 11-8.

But Forrest City point guard Sherika Stewart became a ball hawk from the second period on and turned a slew of steals into 16 points. Post player Cassandra Jackson went inside for 19 more.

Jessica Lanier led Jacksonville with eight points. She also had four rebounds and two blocks. Brittany Smith came off the bench to score five points. Terry and Shanita Johnson each handed out three assists.