After wins against Sylvan Hills on Friday and Little Rock McClellan on Saturday, the Red Devils’ finally experienced a letdown Tuesday night at Mills with a 50-44 loss to the Comets.
Jacksonville was able to easily handle Sylvan Hills Friday night, 78-34. The Red Devils were back on the court the next day playing a makeup game against the McClellan Lions. Both teams went into the game undefeated in conference, but it was Jacksonville who came away unscathed with a 63-60 win.
Tuesday night was a culmination of that extra battle on Saturday, a hot-shooting Mills team and possibly a loss of focus by the Red Devils, knowing they blew out the Comets 66-42 in their first meeting.
"This was all about poise and patience on offense," said Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner. "We only scored 21 points in the first half. That’s from the first person touching the ball either forcing up a shot or forcing a bad pass.
"We had a lot of turnovers, but not because of their press, it was because we just gave the ball to them."
Mills led Jacksonville 25-21 at halftime. The second half was more efficient for the Devils - they had fewer turnovers in the third and fourth quarters combined than they had in the second quarter - but that wasn’t enough to overcome Comet guards Omar Avance and Shaquon Fletcher. Fletcher made 12 free throws on his way to a game-high 20 points. Avance was five of five from beyond the arc and finished with 19 points, despite missing most of the second and fourth quarters either in foul trouble or after fouling out.
Jacksonville was 12 of 23 from the line, including missing their final three free shots while down by five.
"Free throws are all about poise too," said Joyner. "We’d miss one, then get down on ourselves and get tight and miss some more."
Justin McCleary led Jacksonville with 10 points and was four of five from the line. Sergio Berkley was next with nine points, after making his final five free throw attempts. Aaron Smith scored seven points, while Brandon Brockman added six points.
Jacksonville didn’t have those offensive problems Saturday at home against McClellan. Smith made a trio of threes on his way to 20 points. Kanaan Jackson scored 10 points, while Brockman added nine points. The Red Devils also outrebounded the larger Lions.
Jacksonville will be ready to bounce back Friday night when they host Little Rock Christian. The Red Devils mercy-ruled the Warriors at their house in the first meeting.
"We’re not going to do anything different these next two days in practice to get ready," Joyner said. "It will be an open competition like always. If you’re not going to practice and play hard and smart, you’re going to lose minutes."