Leader Blues

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

SPORTS>>Red Devil ‘D’ shuts down Vilonia

Leader sports editor

CONWAY — Reject and deny was the theme of the evening for Jacksonville in a 43-32 win over Vilonia in the opening round of the Wampus Cat Invitational on Monday night.

Cortrell Eskridge blocked eight shots and altered countless others in a physical game in which both teams struggled on the offensive end. Jacksonville blocked a total of 12 Vilonia shots, including five in the opening period.

“Cortrell was tough but he’s been doing that,” said Jacksonville head coach Vic Joyner, whose Red Devils improved to 3-1 and will take on last night’s Benton-Forrest City winner on Friday night at 5:30. “But they all played hard. It was a physical game.

Most games, they won’t let a lot of that stuff go.”

Despite the physical nature of the contest, only 17 free throws were shot. Jacksonville made 6 of 11.

Eskridge also skied for nine rebounds to go along with five points. Antwan Lockhart led the Red Devils with 12 points.

Had Jacksonville made half of its inside shots, the game would not have been nearly as close as it was, though Joyner credited the physical play with his team’s easy misses.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” he said with a laugh. “Why do you think they were missing all those? Those kids were pulling our jerseys, knocking us off the ball. But our kids played through it and did a good job.”

The Eagles, a 5A team which earlier this month ended Rose Bud’s 41-game winning streak, used a pair of three-pointers over a one-minute, 20-second span of the third period to trim an 11-point halftime deficit to 26-23 withtwo minutes left in the quarter.

But Lockhart, normally an inside player, stepped out to hit a three 20 seconds later and sparked a 10-0 run that gave Jacksonville its cushion again. Deshone McClure followed Lockhart’s bomb with an end-to-end lay-up, and Darris Morant knocked down a 10-footer at the buzzer and the Red Devils led 33-23 at the end of three periods. After missing its first eight shots of the third quarter, Jacksonville made its final four.

Two buckets inside by Laquinton Miles early in the final period kept the lead at 13, and Lockhart delivered the exclamation point with an alley-oop jam, compliments of Miles’ looping pass.

For style points, Demetris Harris finished off the scoring with another dunk along the baseline after taking a behind-the-back pass from McClure. It was the final of McClure’s five assists in the contest, to go along with his eight points and six boards.

Miles also had eight points and three assists.

Harris added five points, four steals and eight boards.

The Red Devils connected on only 1 of 9 three-point attempts and just 18 of 49 overall. But the Jacksonville defense forced Vilonia into an even worse 12-of-44 performance.

“You can’t take anything away from Vilonia,” Joyner said. “They played the best style for Vilonia. It’s going to be tough to beat that team. But we never got frustrated. We just played through it and you’ve got to give them credit for that.”