HOT SPRINGS — In the end, Forrest City was just too much for Jacksonville, both inside and outside.
The Red Devils fell 69-60 to the Mustangs in the Class 5A state championship game, Friday afternoon in Hot Springs.
Jacksonville led 35-29 at halftime when almost the only thing keeping the score close was Forrest City draining three-pointer after three-pointer. The second half was a different story as the Mustangs outrebounded the Red Devils 22-11, creating several second-chance baskets.
Jacksonville led 16-14 after the first quarter as the lead bounced back and forth for much of the first half. Forrest City made six of the first eight three-pointers they attempted, as Jacksonville denied access to their 6’10 center and University of Arkansas signee Trey Thompson.
“I watched five tapes of Forrest City games,” said Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner. “I don’t think they made that many threes combined in those five games I watched.”
With Forrest City doing more work on the outside, Jacksonville was able to outrebound the larger team in the first half.
That changed in the second half as the Mustangs put more emphasis on driving to the paint. That also helped the Mustangs get to the free throw line more often.
Forrest City was 5 of 8 from the line in the first half, but were 13 of 15 in the fourth quarter. The Mustangs were 5 of 6 over the final 50 seconds as Jacksonville was forced to foul. The Red Devils were 12 of 20 from the line for the game.
The Red Devil offense was out of sync for much of the game, but appeared to be getting on track at the end of the first half. Trailing 29-26 with three minutes left in the half, the Red Devils closed the half on a 9-0 run to take a 35-29 lead.
But coming out of halftime, the Red Devils still seemed nervous with the ball, not running the offense the way it is designed.
“We looked rattled out there, even when we had the lead,” said Joyner. “Instead of moving the ball, we were playing too fast and taking long shots, creating long rebounds for their bigger guys to go get.”
A 7-0 run by Forrest City gave them the lead in the third quarter, but Jacksonville wasn’t quite done yet. Freshman Tyree Appleby hit a three-pointer to give the lead back to the Red Devils. That would be Jacksonville’s last lead of the night after the Mustangs went on another 7-0 run.
Appleby hit another three early in the fourth to pull the Red Devils to within one, but that was as close as Jacksonville would come as Forrest City began working their offense almost exclusively in the paint.
Devin Campbell led Jacksonville with 15 points, followed by 12 from Kanaan Jackson and 10 from Appleby.
Jacksonville finished their season 26-5 as the state runner-up. The Red Devils have been in the state championship game four times since 2009.
Forrest City finished their season 24-4, including ending the season with 18 consecutive wins. The state title is the first for Forrest City, who lost to Jonesboro in the 2007 title game.