Leader Blues

Friday, February 26, 2010

SPORTS >> Appleby deals for Red Devils

Deshone McClure attempts a shot for Jacksonville on Tuesday against West Memphis. The Red Devils got a last-second shot from Raheem Appleby to beat the Blue Devils and stay in the hunt for the No 4. seed to the 6A state tournament.

Leader sports editor

Demarcus McVay had five blocks for West Memphis on Tuesday. Four of them were Jacksonville drive killers; the fifth ended up an assist for a dramatic Red Devil victory.

Jacksonville won 60-58 on a last-second shot by Raheem Appleby to hand West Memphis only its second 6A-East Conference setback of the season.

Senior forward T.J. Green drove the lane with three seconds left and Jacksonville trailing 58-57 when McVay slapped his shot away. But he sent the ball right into the hands of Red Devils junior guard Appleby, who launched a three-point basket just before the buzzer and caught all net to send the Devils Den into a frenzy.

It was the first time the Red Devils had led since the first quarter, as West Memphis controlled the tempo most of the way. The Blue Devils led by nine points in the third quarter before Jacksonville slowly worked itself back into contention on Red Devil senior night.

“No guts, no glory in that game,” Red Devils coach Victor Joyner said. “You’ve got to commend West Memphis. For one, they only played about five or six kids. What those kids have done up to this point is phenomenal. But I thought my little youngsters grew up tonight. They battled, they banged, they looked like they were outgunned at times, but they never stopped fighting.”

Jacksonville (10-6, 6-7) benefited from Appleby’s heads-up play at the end, but relied mostly on senior Deshone McClure’s 28-point performance to keep pace with the inside-dominant Blue Devils (16-7, 10-2).

McClure found tough points inside as well as enjoying a night of strong outside shooting that included five, three-point baskets.

“He’s been a leader on this team all year,” Joyner said. “It’s not his scoring, trust me. It’s what Deshone does during time outs, during practice and during the day. How he’s calling these kids and keeping them up and telling them what it’s like. I mean, he’s been a rock for them.”

McClure pulled Jacksonville, the defending 6A state champion, to within 58-57 with 1:17 left to play on an arching three-point shot from the right corner. The Red Devils then sent Jonathan Fitzgerald to the free-throw line and Fitzgerald missed the first shot and Tee Brown was there for a Jacksonville rebound.

That resulted in McVay blocking a jumper by Justin McCleary, but Brown came up big with another rebound with 23 seconds left on another missed Blue Devils free throw to set up the winning possession.

“We didn’t make our free throws down the stretch,” West Memphis coach Larry Bray said. “And it really hurt us. They came up with it and made a good shot. It just happened to go in. You win some, you lose some.”

McClure scored eight points in the first quarter that helped the Red Devils to a 12-6 lead. But his 17 points in the second half, including a 5 of 6 performance at the free-throw line, paved the way for a dramatic comeback.

“He’s a great ballplayer,” Bray said of McClure. “We were trying to keep him from getting the ball. He worked real hard to get it, and when he did get it he scored. He made his free-throw shots, but he also got open and penetrated and got to the basket.

You can’t knock that; that’s a great player.”

The Jacksonville underclassmen held their ground with West Memphis in the second half, especially when they rallied from a 41-32 deficit to cut it to 42-39 late in the third quarter with McClure on the bench for most of that time.

“You have to make West Memphis stay on the defensive end,” Joyner said. “They don’t want to be down there very much. In the first half, they had all those run-outs and dunks and all those things they like to do.”

Green added 16 points for Jacksonville while Appleby scored seven, but it was his three-pointer at the end that brought the student body and faculty onto the floor to celebrate.

Joyner said the winning play was nothing close to what was planned during the timeout before Jacksonville’s final possession.

“Sometimes, it comes down to someone making a basketball play,” Joyner said. “I’ve been coaching for 21 years, and I bet I can count on one hand the number of times where the play I drew up worked.”

West Memphis was still alive for a shot at the 6A-East title pending two make-up games with Little Rock Parkview, and those games also affected Jacksonville. A West Memphis sweep will give the Blue Devils the top seed and Jacksonville the No. 4 seed.