Leader Blues

Thursday, January 24, 2008

SPORTS >> Jacksonville rolls along

By RAY BENTON
Leader managing editor

Head coach Vic Joyner and assistant coach Jerry Wilson never had any doubt that the young Jacksonville Red Devils were going to be fine, even when things reached a low point after a 3-9 start.

Getting their kids to buy that was another matter entirely.

Apparently, the players are starting to believe. The Red Devils won their fourth straight game with another solid defensive outing in a 47-45 road win over West Memphis last Friday to move to 4-0 in the 6A-East Conference. In improving to 7-9 overall, the Red Devils are allowing just 40 points per game in league play.

“The kids came out of the Red Devil Classic [in December] and rededicated themselves,” Wilson said. “We took the approach that we only had one way to go and that was up.

“The coaches always believed what we were telling them, that when the conference came around, they were going to be OK. They could have got their heads down a little. But they’ve worked hard in practice and it’s paying dividends on the court.”
The Red Devils, who faced a tough Mountain Home team last night after The Leader went to press, are just one-half game behind Jonesboro in the standings. The Hurricane lost much of their team to graduation after winning the state championship last March, but that has hardly slowed them down.

Jacksonville travels to Jonesboro on Friday.

At West Memphis, Deshone McClure made 1 of 2 free throws with seven seconds left to put Jacksonville up by two, and the Red Devils’ defense made one final stop to secure the win over the Blue Devils (8-9, 3-2). McClure led Jacksonville with 11 points.
Antwan Lockhart added eight, while Laquinton Miles and Cortrell Eskridge added six points each.

“That’s a big win,” Wilson said, noting that West Memphis features a front line of 6-10, 6-8 and 6-6. “The kids came out and executed the game plan. They were patient on offense and we limited them to one shot.”

Against a team that had been averaging “four or five dunks a game,” Wilson said the Red Devils mostly kept West Memphis from getting above the rim, and, more importantly, kept them from going on any extended runs.

Wilson said McClure, who hit three three-pointers, opened up the inside for Jacksonville’s vastly improved post game.
“That allowed our post men to really attack the basket,” Wilson said.

The Red Devils, Wilson said, have developed a four-man rotation inside, and an 11-man rotation overall, something the coaches never dreamed of having with such a young team.

Miles made 6 of 7 free throws.

“We think we played a tough non-conference schedule and that may be why our win-loss record is what it is,” Wilson said. “Our kids are growing up a little bit. It was big to go steal one on the road. And we have yet to play our best game.”

W. Memphis girls 67, Jacksonville 28

The Jacksonville girls’ run through a murderers’ row of 6A-East competition took them to West Memphis last Friday and the result wasn’t pretty. The Lady Blue Devils, tied for second in the conference, pounced on the Lady Red Devils early and ran off with a 67-28 victory to drop Jacksonville to 6-10 overall, 1-3 in league play.

Jacksonville faced Mountain Home last night after The Leader went to press. The Lady Bombers were tied with West Memphis for second. The Lady Red Devils must travel to face a much-improved Jonesboro team on Friday before hosting 6A’s top-ranked Searcy Lady Lions next Tuesday. And they’re doing it with a rotation of seven players – five of those sophomores.
“It’s been a tough learning process,” said first-year head coach Katrina Mimms. “I look at it like we’re playing everyone else’s varsity with what should be my junior-varsity team. If we can pick up a couple of wins here and there and make it to the tournament [the top six teams in each conference advance to postseason], that would give us confidence for the future.”
Jessica Lanier led Jackson-ville on Friday with 12 points, but it wasn’t nearly enough against the deep, tall and talented Lady Blue Devils (15-4, 4-1). Mimms said her team scored its four first-quarter points early, then had “the next five or six shots blocked.”

Jacksonville trailed 36-14 at the half.

“I told them at half that we should start like it’s 0-0,” Mimms said. “I knew [West Memphis head coach Sheila Burns] would come back with her starters in the second half. We played them 11-11 in the third quarter. That’s a positive we can take out of it.”

Apollonia Sims, Crystal Washington and Shanita Johnson added four each for Jacksonville.