Leader Blues

Friday, January 09, 2009

SPORTS>>Devils rout Pats

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils spent the past week of practice battling each other with an intensity and an attitude head coach Vic Joyner hadn’t seen since the preseason.

Then they reunited and turned that intensity on Little Rock Parkview on Tuesday night in the 6A-East Conference season opener.

Behind 18 points, nine rebounds, two steals and two blocks from Demetrius Harris, the Red Devils stunned the perennial power Patriots 69-49.

“We had two days of practice where we had blowups and attitudes toward each other and that’s a good thing,” said Joyner, whose Devils improved to 8-2. “They were getting mad at each other because they were battling each other. They were fighting each other for playing time because I keep spots open every day.

“It was two of the most intense practices since preseason. And it showed out there.”

It wasn’t just intensity, but patience, that played the key roles in Jacksonville’s surprisingly easy win. The result was torrid shooting (28 of 45) off 15 assists, five from long-range shooter Deshone McClure, who Joyner praised for his unselfish play.

“Deshone is a team player,” Joyner said. “People sometimes think he’s a hot dog, but he’s not a selfish player. ‘Shone’ shoots the ball when he needs to and he has deeper range than most people realize.

“But he gave it up for the team out there tonight and I want everybody to know that.”

Jacksonville controlled this one from the start, racing to a 15-9 lead after one period when McClure banked in a three-pointer at the buzzer. In the second period, Jacksonville began to assert its dominance on the boards on its way to a 36-21 rebounding advantage, and also began to exploit Parkview’s press for fast break buckets.

Consecutive rebound buckets by Harris and Cortrell Eskridge extended the Red Devil lead to eight points and three straight fast-break baskets pushed the lead to 32-19 late in the first half.

When McClure passed ahead to Antonio Roy for another breakaway bucket, the lead was 34-21, and Laquinton Miles’ end-to-end weave and jam as time expired had the near-capacity crowd in a frenzy at intermission.

“We wanted to attack them on the back side and make that one pass (against their press),” Joyner said. “We didn’t want to have to set up because they’re too quick. But we’re trying to be more patient. We got a little hot-doggish there at the end. When we get down there in those hostile environments, we can’t get like that.”

Stan Appleby’s alley-oop pass to Antwan Lockhart for a resounding dunk had the lead at 18, and Appleby led a fast break for a Lockhart lay-up to push the lead to 44-24 midway through the third period.

“I thought Stan came out and handled the pressure real well,” Joyner said. “He made some good passes and moved the ball well. I thought Antwan and Antonio played solid inside. And Demetrius is getting his basketball legs under him.”

Harris has played organized basketball only two seasons, but looked like a veteran on Tuesday, with three rebound baskets and several nifty moves inside.

Jacksonville had six players score eight or more points, revealing a balance that could serve them well through the rugged conference run. Roy had 10 points, six boards and two blocks, while Lockhart added 10 points and a block. McClure had six boards, nine points and a block in addition to his five assists.

Miles had three assists, four rebounds and a block to go along with his eight points.

Eskridge added eight points, six rebounds and a block. Jacksonville blocked eight shots, with five players recording at least one.

Jacksonville struggled at the free-throw line, making just 12 of 25, but it hardly mattered on Tuesday. The Red Devils’ defense limited Parkview’s 6-7 Aaron Ross to 14 points, but only five before the final period when the game was well in hand.

“I thought our defensive intensity was great,” Joyner said. “We had a lot of energy defensively. We just played good, solid help defense and challenged their shooters. (Parkview coach Al Flanigan) is a legend. And that team over there is not going to fold just because we beat them by 20. I wouldn’t want to be their next opponent.

“I’m happy. We know this conference is going to be a booger. We understand what it’s going to take.”

Things got no easier for Jacksonville when it hosted defending 6A champion Little Rock Hall last night in a game played after
Leader deadlines.

Hall opened league play with a 70-17 win over Marion.