Mark Monk goes up for a layup in Jacksonville’s 72-62 win over the Chicago Orr Spartans.
The Jacksonville Red Devils went into Christmas break in a good way, with wins over Chicago Orr and Oklahoma City, Putnam City West as the hosts of the Hardwood Showcase.
The Devil’s Den featured those two teams, as well as Bossier City from Louisiana and Trent International from Sugarland, Texas. Other Arkansas teams included Camden Fairview, El Dorado and Little Rock McClellan.
The final game of the showcase saw Jacksonville hand the Chicago Orr Spartans a 72-62 loss. Jacksonville (7-3) was seemingly at a disadvantage to start the game with 6-6 Keith Charleston sitting with a knee injury. With no other player over 6-3, Jacksonville’s speed and defense proved to much for the Spartan’s frontcourt, featuring 6-8 Marlon Jones and 6-7 Tyvone Greer.
"I never would’ve thought it, but making them go small almost hurt us," said Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner. "Their smaller lineup is as quick as we’ll see."
A three-pointer by Reggie Barnes to open the fourth quarter gave the Red Devils what seemed like a comfortable 53-30 lead. With mostly reserves in the game, Jacksonville extended that lead to 60-34 with six minutes left to play.
That’s when Chicago took out both big men and began selling out with a full-court trapping press. That helped lead to 15 turnovers by the Red Devils in the fourth as the Spartans scored 28 points over the final 5:30.
"I call that a kamikaze press," said Joyner. "If you can get it over the top you should score behind them, but they trapped that first man so fast that we couldn’t also go up top."
Chicago guard Louis Adams found his range in the fourth quarter, scoring 20 of his game-high 29 points. Aaron Smith’s 15 points led Jacksonville. Smith missed three of his first four free throws in the game, but bounced back to make his final six in the fourth quarter to help hold the Spartans at bay. Sergio Berkley scored nine for Jacksonville, while Justin McCleary added eight points.
Even when Chicago had the size advantage, Jacksonville still held an almost 3-1 rebounding edge. The Red Devils’ outrebounded the Spartans 41-14.
"You can’t overcome almost 30 turnovers in a game unless you’re doing something else right," Joyner said. "We played some defense out there tonight and were able to back those big guys away from the basket."
In Jacksonville’s first game of the weekend, the Red Devils took down Oklahoma City 51-46 in a defensive battle.
Oklahoma City and Jacksonville feature two of the region’s top point guards in Omega Harris and the hometown McCleary. McCleary was battling effects of the flu all weekend, and finished with nine points. Harris led his team with 13 points and nine rebounds, but shot under 40 percent in the loss.
"Kevin Richardson and Nykel Worthen were in his pocket all night," said Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner. "You can’t give a guy like that an inch of space and they did their jobs."
Leading the way for the Red Devils was Kahleel Hart with 12 points on six field goals - the most for either team. Aaron Smith also had 12 points thanks to shooting 8 of 11 from the line.
"Hart is the hardest working kid I’ve ever coached," Joyner said. "He flies around in games and does the same thing in practice. He’s nonstop."