SPORTS>>Red Devils pick up East road win
Special to The Leader
Jacksonville was heavily favored, but still got a big win in a place that’s been a tough place for the Red Devils to play in recent years, beating the Searcy Lions 56-46 Friday night in The Jungle at Searcy High.
Things didn’t start going according to plan until the third quarter, as the home team hung tough with its favored visitors throughout the first half.
The Lions laid back in a tight zone in the first half, hoping to neutralize Jacksonville’s biggest advantages, height and quickness. The Red Devil guards were unable to penetrate, and the big men weren’t open for shots. The Searcy strategy worked on the front end, but offensive rebounds and putbacks kept Jacksonville in front throughout the first half. Searcy’s Jamaal Jones came off the bench to lead the Lions and keep them close in the early going. He scored nine of Searcy’s 22 first-half points as Jacksonville took a four-point lead into the break.
The Red Devils all but ended the drama in the third quarter, outscoring Searcy 18-4 and taking a 44-26 lead into the fourth quarter.
Jacksonville broke the game open about halfway through the third. Leading 33-26, Antwan Lockhart got a steal and assist to teammate LaQuentin Miles, who was fouled on a made basket and converted the three-point play. Another Searcy turnover was followed by a three pointer by DeShone McClure. After a Searcy miss, Miles hit a three that made it 42-26 with 1:49 left in the period.
Shortly after the start of the fourth quarter, Jacksonville’s Darris Morant came off the bench to hit two more three pointers to give the Red Devils complete control.
The lead grew to as much as 25 before Searcy’s Casey Wilmath got hot late with most of Jacksonville’s varsity on the bench. Wilmath scored 15 of his game-high 18 points in the final four minutes of the game, going 6 of 7 from the floor in that span, his only miss a 50-footer at the buzzer.
“We had to get them out of that zone and the only way to do that is to hit some shots from outside,” Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner said. “We finally did that in the second half and the game changed. Darris Morant came off the bench and hit two from the perimeter, because we had to break up that zone. In the first half we didn’t do anything to soften that zone up. They sagged in, and I would’ve done the same thing. Searcy played the percentages and made us hit from the outside. We finally started hit some and the percentages went our way. They went Searcy’s way in the first half and our way in the second.”
Miles led Jacksonville with 15 points while post player Demetris Harris posted another double double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Jones finished with 11 points for the Lions.
The win lifted Jacksonville to 10-3 overall and 2-1 in league play. Searcy fell to 5-9 and 1-2.