Leader Blues

Friday, December 05, 2008

SPORTS>> Lady Devils fall short

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

Considering the Jacksonville Lady Red Devils were without one of their starters and playing undefeated Marion, there was little reason they should have been as close as they were at the end. Especially considering Jacksonville played so poorly on the offensive end in the first half.

But somehow the Lady Devils found themselves with the lead with two minutes to go. Marion, though, took advantage of a defensive breakdown, then hit its final six free throws to edge Jacksonville 49-44 on Wednesday night in the semifinals of the Mills Invitational.

“I thought our offensive execution was terrible and still, you look up at the score and we’re only down six or eight,” said Jacksonville head coach Katrina Mimms. “And then we took the lead.”

The Lady Red Devils committed 29 turnovers in the game and a flurry of them early in the second period nearly did them in completely. The Lady Patriots (5-0) turned five steals into six consecutive buckets over a two-minute, 51-second span to give them their biggest lead of the night at 19-6.

During that span, Jacksonville’s post player Jessica Lanier was on the bench, saddled with two fouls. She missed eight minutes of the first half. Sherice Randell helped Jacksonville begin to get back in the game with a three-pointer and a 14-footer along the baseline. A rebound basket by Lanier and two free throws by Tyra Terry had the Lady Devils within 24-18 at intermission.

Jacksonville turned up the defensive pressure in the second half, and three consecutive buckets by Terry gave Jacksonville its first lead of the night at 28-26 midway through the third period.

Marion responded with an 11-0 run behind four straight buckets by Bree Ware, and claimed a seven- point lead near the end of the third period.

Once again, though, the Lady Devils refused to go away, and Randell tied the game at 39 with a six-footer along the baseline with 2:43 left. Her three-pointer from the left of the circle put Jacksonville ahead 42-41 with 2:10 left.

But Marion took advantage of a defensive lapse on its next possession and scored inside to take the lead for good. Randell’s pull-up 10-footer with 1:26 left drew Jacksonville within 45-44, but it was the Lady Devils’ final points and Marion closed it out with six straight free throws by Ware, who had all 15 of her points over the final 12:25 of the game.

The Lady Devils (2-2) were playing without Apollonia Sims, who was out with an injury. They were led by Terry’s 16 points and two assists. Randell added 14 points and three steals and Lanier had six points and eight rebounds. Crystal Washington and Brittany Smith each snagged three steals as the Lady Devils’ forced 22 turnovers, 11 on steals.

Jacksonville shot the ball well at 17 of 35, but between the turnovers and a 32-21 rebounding shortfall, got off 13 fewer shots than Marion.

“We didn’t do anything we needed to do, offensively,” Mimms said. “We need to go back and look at the film and show them how to be patient, reverse the ball and get the next open shot. We created havoc on defense, but we rushed things ourselves. It looked like we were in a hurry.”

Jacksonville plays in the third-place game this morning at 10.