Leader Blues

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

SPORTS>>Devils take round 3

Leader sportswriter

Victor Joyner and Raymond Cooper have both referred to the rivalry series between their two basketball teams as heavyweight prize fights on multiple occasions.

If that’s the case, then give round three to Jacksonville on a flurry of late Red Devil punches.

The Red Devils (5-2) held North Pulaski (7-3) to only one field goal in the fourth quarter to claim a 44-35 win on Friday night at the Falcons’ Nest. North Pulaski led from the start of the game until the final minute of the third quarter, when a three-point basket by Stan Appleby tied it at 32, and the Devils never trailed again.

After dropping an early-season tilt with their cross-town rivals, Jacksonville has bounced back to win the next two.

The Falcons came out with something to prove, with shooting ace Aaron Cooper on the bench for the game. Fellow junior Duquan Bryant took up much of that slack in the first half, leading all scorers with 13 points. He was, however, the only NP player to finish in double digits.

“North Pulaski just took it to them in the first half,” said Joyner. “And they knew that, they knew it at halftime. We knew it before the game when we found out that Cooper wasn’t going to play, we knew everybody else was going to step up, because we’ve been there. We’ve all been in that situation when your key guy is gone.
“It’s like losing your hearing, all your other senses are heightened. Well, their senses were heightened. We knew that was going to happen, we talked about it. We didn’t match their intensity early. We had too many miscues, weren’t patient.”
After controlling well over half the game, a three-pointer from the top of the key by Duquan Bryant with 26 seconds left to play was all the Falcons had to show for in the final quarter.
Meanwhile, the Red Devils had gone on a 10-0 run to build a 42-32 lead. Appleby started the final period just as he had ended the previous one, with a long-distance trey that gave Jacksonville its first lead since the 7:16 mark of the first quarter.

Most of Jacksonville’s points came on the inside. Antwan Lockhart put in two of his six points at the 3:35 mark to give Jacksonville a 38-32 lead, and Demetrius Harris scored down low with a minute left after a Cortell Eskridge free throw to make it 41-32. Harris went on to lead the Red Devils with 12 points and eight rebounds.

“That’s the main thing,” Joyner said. “That’s what this team hasn’t realized. We have a lot of potential stars, and I’m saying ‘potential’, because they sure ain’t big stars yet, but we have some potential stars out there.

“They don’t want to share the ball in certain situations, and that’s why we had to put a couple of them on that bench. Sit them over there and let them think about it. Then the ball got to moving around, and going to places where I wanted it to go. We’ve got something to work with on this team, but mentally, they’ve got to focus in on the game plan, and stick with it, regardless.”
The Falcons controlled the scoreboard in the first half, but could never pull away from Jacksonville. Their biggest lead was at the beginning of the second quarter, when a pair of free throws by T.J. Green put them up 15-8.

“I’m totally pleased with them, because they responded,” Joyner said. “We knew they were going to come out with both barrels.

But they burned a whole lot of energy early. I think the size and the banging, it just eventually wore them down.”

The Devils sputtered offensively in the first half. They still found ways to avoid falling out of contention, with a pair of second-quarter shots by LaQuinton Miles and a pair of three pointers by Deshone McClure for six of his 10 points in the game. The slow pace seemed to favor the Falcons in the first half, but the size of Jacksonville took its toll down the stretch.

“That’s to our advantage,” Joyner said. “We’ve got the bigger people. If you want to slow it down, we’ll play that way. We want our big men to get under there and rebound the ball. When they beat us over there, we were letting them drive. We weren’t rotating over well. But this time, we rotated over there. We helped tonight by making them shoot jumps shots.”

Appleby finished with eight points for Jacksonville. Kyron Ware added seven for North Pulaski.

The Lady Red Devils took the opener Friday with a 69-26 mercy-ruled win over North Pulaski. Post player Jessica Lanier led the way for Jacksonville with 12 points, with 10 from Tyra Terry. Chyna Davis and Crystal Washington each added nine points for the Lady Red Devils, who improved to 4-5 on the year. For North Pulaski, senior Laura Dortch led the way with 10 points, while Bianca Harper had eight.

Jacksonville will host the annual Red Devil Classic tournament beginning Saturday.