Leader Blues

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

SPORTS>>Foul-plagued Devils fall

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

JONESBORO — There was a cake awaiting Jonesboro head coach Barry Pruitt after the Jonesboro-Jacksonville game on Monday night. But it probably would have gone back into the refrigerator had the Hurricane not been able to hold on for a critical 49-41 win at the Hurricane Gym.

The victory was Pruitt’s 500th as Jonesboro and it didn’t come without a whole lot of Red Devil starters sitting on the bench in foul trouble.

“Our entire front line was in foul trouble in the first quarter,” said frustrated Red Devil head coach Vic Joyner, whose club dropped its first conference game of the season and lost a five-game winning streak. “The way the officials called the game was a factor. There were two officials calling the game who I had already blackballed. Not to belabor the point, but I had to play a lot of second- and third-string front line players.”

Jonesboro took 30 free-throws to just 16 for Jacksonville, which didn’t help itself by making only five of those. “We had a seven-point lead late in the first half and missed 4-of-6 free throws,” Joyner said.

“We missed a chance to stretch the lead out to 12 or 13 points,” he added. Joyner said the Red Devils played outstanding defense in the first half, limiting the defending state champions to four field goals.

“We shut them down defensively,” he said. “But it seemed like every time we looked up, they were on the free-throw line. Our guys really started playing tentative defensively in the second half because of that.”

Jacksonville (8-10, 5-1) led 24-22 at the half, with Deshone McClure collecting 13 of those. But McClure didn’t score in the second half.
The Red Devils were successful in containing the dynamic Calamese brothers — Jonah and Josh — in the first half. But when Jacksonville’s Antonio Roy fouled out in the third period, they began to have some success.

“I had a decision to make,” said Joyner of leaving Roy in with four fouls. “I went with our second and third-string guys with [Cortrell Eskridge and La-quintin Miles] with three fouls. But I had to put Antonio back in. And Antwan Lockhart had to play the third and fourth quarters with three fouls.”

Jonesboro improved to 7-0 in conference play, alone in first in the 6A-East. Jacksonville, which played Searcy last night after Leader deadlines, still has control of second place at 5-1. West Memphis has two losses and is in third.

Joyner said that despite the frustration of the loss on Monday, his kids have become mentally tough after getting off to a 3-9 start to the season.

“Those early losses made us mentally strong,” he said. “We pull for each other now a lot more than early in the season. What I’m a little worried about is a physical letdown.

We have to bounce back [last night against Searcy] and against Marion [on Friday] and they’ll be fresh.” Terrell Eskridge added eight.

JONESBORO GIRLS 57, JACKSONVILLE 30

The Lady Red Devils fell into a 32-3 hole on their way to a loss at Jonesboro on Monday.