Leader Blues

Saturday, February 23, 2008

SPORTS >>Devils tumble at Mt. Home

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

West Memphis gave Jacksonville its chance on Tuesday night. The Blue Devils were stunned by Marion, giving the Red Devils an opportunity to move into a second-place tie with West Memphis in the 6A-East.

And with about 20 seconds left in the Red Devils’ battle at Mountain Home on Tuesday, it looked like they would seize that opportunity.

But Mountain Home’s Garrett Wilhite hit a buzzer-beating, well-guarded three-pointer to send the game into overtime, and the Bombers held on to beat Jacksonville, 67-58.

Worse, Jacksonville head coach Vic Joyner was assessed two technical fouls in the overtime, meaning he was not only ejected from that game, he had to sit out the regular-season finale against defending champion Jonesboro last night at the Devil’s Den.

“If there’s anybody in the conference in terms of rivalries we’ve established over the years, there isn’t anybody on the schedule
I’d rather coach than that one,” Joyner said.

The technicals came when Joyner requested an explanation after Mountain Home called a timeout in overtime that they didn’t have. The rules state that a team that calls a timeout when they have none left is assessed a technical foul.

According to Joyner, the referees decided not to award the timeout to the Mountain Home player, who tried to call it as he was falling out of bounds. Instead, the officials awarded the ball to Jacksonville with 12 seconds left and trailing by two.

“I guess they just decided to compromise,” Joyner said. “But I wanted the technical, which would have given us two free throws and the ball. Deshone [McClure] is almost automatic and probably would have madethose free throws. Then, we would have had the ball and a chance to win.”

Instead, Joyner was whistled for a pair of technicals, resulting in four Mountain Home free throws. The Bombers scored 11 of their 19 points in the overtime at the free-throw line.

Jacksonville looks almost certainly to be the three seed, and will likely face Texarkana in the opening round of the 6A state tournament next Thursday at 2:30 p.m. at Little Rock Hall.

“We’re not dejected about getting the three seed,” Joyner insisted. “We think it might have been a best-case scenario for us looking at the bracket. The first game is always the hardest game anyway.”

The Red Devils had a chance to ice the game in regulation when McClure went to the line with 12 seconds left and Jacksonville up two. He made one, but missed the second, allowing Wilhite to hit the desperation three to tie it.

“In overtime, they hit a bunch of deep threes on us, but we battled back to get it within two,” Joyner said. “[The timeout controversy] was a travesty because it was a well-played game by both teams. But we executed well and did everything we needed to do to win the game in regulation.”

Jacksonville (12-13, 9-4) trailed by three at the half and by one entering the final period.
LaQuinton Miles led the Red Devils with 17 points, while McClure added 11.
For Joyner, missing last night’s game was going to be painful.

“I can hear the roar of the crowd from my front porch, that’s how close I live to the school,” he said. “That’s going to kill me. I’ve already got it arranged to have someone calling me with updates.”

As for the disappointing, controversial loss at Mountain Home, Joyner thinks the Red Devils will be able to shake it off.

“The kids represented Jacksonville well up there,” he said. “They showed a lot of character and kept their cool. They’ve done that the entire year, starting when they were 3-9 to begin the season.”