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JACKSONVILLE GIRLS Jackson key to Jacksonville

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils wrapped up an undefeated 14-0 conference season Tuesday night with a win over the Sylvan Hills Lady Bears.

Jacksonville got the mercy rule going on Sylvan Hills, but had a little tougher time Friday night in a win over Pulaski Academy.

The Lady Devils won by ten points over the Lady Bruins, a tight contest compared to the usual mercy rule, and were never able to stretch the lead much further than that.

While the Lady Bruins’ defense held some of the other Lady Devils a little below what they’re capable of, Jessica Jackson was still able to pour in 26 points in her final game in the Devil’s Den.

The perfect conference season is a big departure from where the program was during Jackson’s first year as a freshman.

Jacksonville won just one conference game during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons. Last year was the breakout year for the Lady Devils, losing only to Little Rock Parkview and Little Rock Hall while playing in the 7A6A-East conference.

The drop down to 5A benefited the Lady Red Devils’ win totals, although it is pretty likely their only conference loss, if there would be one, would have come to Hall again if the conference had remained the same.

Jacksonville did lose to Hall very early in the season this year, but the Lady Devils bounced back soon with signature wins over Parkview, Little Rock Central and Cabot.

“Getting over that Parkview hump was pretty big for the girls,” said Jacksonville coach Katrina Mimms. “They’ve got a great program and have beaten us pretty good in the past. That was a really big win.”

Jacksonville will go in the Class 5A State Tournament next week with a 7 p.m. showdown against the Clarksville Lady Panthers. Many around the state are hoping to see a showdown between those two boys teams in the semifinals. The Lady Devils are looking to give the Clarksville boys some motivation to seek revenge after the Lady Panthers get beaten.

Should the first two rounds fall in place, Jacksonville will face Huntsville, Beebe or Paragould in the semifinals. None of those three can match Jacksonville’s athleticism, but all are well coached with good size.

“We’ve worked hard to get ready for the tournament,” Mimms said. “We’re not going to overlook anyone, but our focus this season has been to get to the championship game.”

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