SPORTS>>Jacksonville bounces back
Leader sports editor
Vic Joyner’s concern was Jim Summers’ hope.
Less than 24 hours after a frustrating road loss at Jonesboro, Jacksonville took the court against a struggling, but rested Searcy.
Fatigue proved not to be much of a factor, however, as Jacksonville pulled away in the second quarter on its way to a 58-38 win to improve to 6-1 in the 6A-East.
“We played each team [in the 10-man rotation] four minutes each in the first half,” said Joyner, Jackonville’s head coach. “We were able to rest them and I thought we looked pretty active tonight. They burned a lot of energy [against Jonesboro].”
Searcy coach Summers knew that, even with a weary Red Devil team, the odds were long for his young Lions, who finished the night making only 12-of-41 from the field and with a 15-rebound disadvantage.
“I thought this was a great night to play them, with them coming off that game at Jonesboro,” said Searcy’s first-year head coach. “Their legs were a little dead, and they weren’t near the team they normally are. But we didn’t do anything we were supposed to be doing in the first half.”
Which was to try to take away Deshone McClure, double down on the Jacksonville post and force the other Red Devil perimeter players to beat them. But McClure finished with a game-high 14 points, while post players Antwan Lockhart and Antonio Roy went for eight points and four rebounds each.
The Lions (1-6 in the 6A-East) matched the Red Devils basket for basket early, and actually led 9-6 on Nathan Williams’ three-pointer with 2:38 left in the opening period.
But Searcy scored only one field goal the rest of the half, while the Red Devils began to heat up, outscoring the Lions 28-5 to take a 34-14 halftime lead.
When the Jacksonville guards weren’t getting the ball down on the blocks to Lockhart and Roy, they were taking it to the basket for field goals and fouls. The Red Devils made 9-of-13 from the line in the second period, the result of their penetration.
“We got out there too close on their guards and it gave them lanes to penetrate,” Summers said.
The lead reached 27 in the third period on Darrius Morant’s three-pointer before Searcy closed out the period with seven straight points.
With Jacksonville shoring up its post play – an area of some concern early in the season – there are two areas of concern remaining for Joyner: free-throw shooting and defense. Joyner says the defense units are playing okay, but he thinks they are giving up too many cheap fouls.
“We’re not being disciplined in our traps and letting the other team get to the line too much,” he said. “I thought overall we went out and contested [Searcy’s shots]. For the most part we got to their shooters. But Searcy missed some shots, too.”
Jacksonville made a respectable 16-of-25 from the line on Tuesday after making only 5-of-16 at Jonesboro. The Red Devils, though, made 13-of-14 over a stretch of the second and third periods to reach the 64 percent mark against the Lions.
“I don’t harp on free throws because it gets in their mind,” Joyner said. “We work with them on their form, but it’s a mental thing and I’m not messing with it. It’s free; you gotta make it.”
Joyner was able to clear his bench in the final period for some much-needed rest for his weary rotation, which played Marion last night for its third game in five days.
“Anytime you play three games in one week, you worry about fatigue,” said Joyner, whose Devils won for the sixth time in seven games to improve to 9-19 overall. “You can’t sleep on anybody in this conference because you can drop one, two, three games in a hurry.”
Jacksonville had five players score eight or more points. Morant had nine points, while Lockhart, Roy and LaQuinton Miles each added eight. The Red Devils’ balance extended to their rebounding as well. Seven players grabbed four boards or more to stake Jacksonville to an overall 38-23 advantage. Miles, Demetrius Harris and Cortrell Eskridge led with five apiece.
Searcy was led by Jordan Evans’ nine points and five rebounds.
SEARCY GIRLS 59, JACKSONVILLE 47
It was the Jacksonville girls’ sixth loss in seven conference games, but head coach Katrina Mimms can live with it.
Just one day after falling behind 32-3 in a loss at Jonesboro, the Lady Red Devils gave the state’s top-ranked Lady Lions all they wanted through the first 13 minutes, when they actually led 20-19 on Shanita Johnson’s bank.
But the bottom fell out over the next three-and-a-half minutes, when the Lady Devils turned the ball over seven times, and missed two free throws and three field goal attempts. By then, Searcy’s pressure defense and uptempo offense had turned that one-point deficit into a 34-20 lead.
Only two three-pointers by Tyra Terry over the final 40 seconds – the second one a 40-foot buzzer beater – kept Jacksonville within 10 points at intermission.
But Searcy opened the second half with nine straight points and led by as many as 22 points before Jacksonville finished the game on a 13-3 run.
“After [Monday night], I was just hoping not to get mercy-ruled,” Mimms joked afterward. “But that’s what happens when you coach a sophomore-oriented team. You can flip a coin on which one shows up. Tonight was the good team. We played very well. We had some mistakes, but overall, I’m very pleased.”
Terry led the Lady Devils with 16 points, and added five rebounds and four steals. Jacksonville post player Jessica Lanier spent most of the night in foul trouble before fouling out in the fourth quarter, but she still managed to score 14 points and grab seven rebounds.
“I thought Jessica had a really good game for them,” said Searcy head coach Michelle Birdsong. “She was really tough. We ended up getting a lot of turnovers off our halfcourt trap, and got them to hurry a bit. That was a big difference in the second quarter.”
The Lady Lions got their usual solid balance scoring-wise. Five players scored six or more, led by sophomore Lauren Harrison’s 17 points and five rebounds.
Shantel Neely pitched in 12 points, five rebounds and four assists. Taylor Clark added nine points and six boards. Kayla Medley had eight points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals, and Anna Minor scored six points.
The Lady Devils also got nine points from Kita Walker. Johnson had five assists and two steals.
“We had some fatigue because we didn’t get home until 11:45 [Monday night],” Mimms said. “And we don’t go very deep so you’re going to run out of gas a little bit. But if we can beat Marion [last night] and Sylvan Hills, that could possibly put us in the state tournament as the six seed.
“That would just be a plus for these sophomores.”