Monday, December 24, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Devils get two big-time wins

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils shined on a big stage on Friday and Saturday. The stage was familiar, but the platform of hosting the Hardwood Classic Showcase and taking on two of the best teams from Oklahoma and Illinois made the two victories a huge accomplishment.

On Friday, Jacksonville beat Putnam City West 51-46. The Patriots are one of the premier teams from Oklahoma City, and features 6-foot-4 junior guard Omega Harris, rated by as Oklahoma’s number one prospect of 2014. They also feature two of that state’s top 20 sophomore prospects in small forward Tyson Jolly and guard Steve Stallings. Even with that lineup, what Jacksonville pulled off the next day was even more impressive.

The Red Devils upset Chicago’s Orr Academy 72-62, a day after Orr came from 15 points behind in the fourth quarter to beat Trent Internationale 76-74.

Orr entered the game with a 6-1 record and it’s only loss coming to the controversial start-up school Prime Prep Academy in Dallas. Prime Prep was co-founded by former Dallas Cowboy Deion Sanders, and in this, it’s first year of existence, features a starting lineup complete with major Division I signees, all five transfers from other Texas schools.

Saturday’s game was fast-paced when it could be, but was mired by the whistle. A total of 48 fouls were called, 29 against the visitors. Orr coach Louis Adams Jr. expressed his distaste for the officiating many times during the game, but didn’t use it as an excuse afterwards.

“We just underestimated these guys,” Adams said of Jacksonville. “We beat that international team the night before and the schedule we’ve played, I don’t think my guys came out ready tonight. They came out ready to play. They’re very quick and they hustle. They out-hustled us tonight.”

Jacksonville’s Reggie Barnes hit a three pointer to start the fourth quarter and gave the Red Devils their biggest lead of the game at 53-30. From there, the Spartans turned up the defensive pressure and almost made its second huge comeback of the showcase.

“We made them go small but when they did, it hurt us,” Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner said. “Those guys are quick and relentless and we don’t have the ball handlers. If we can’t get it to J-Mac (Justin McCleary), we’re going to have trouble against that kind of pressure.”

That was Orr’s game plan in the fourth quarter. The Spartans tried to deny McCleary the ball and attacked with multiple defenders once it went to someone else. The result was 15 Jacksonville turnovers in the fourth quarter. Orr put together a huge run after Barnes’ three, spurred largely by Jamal McDowell’s five steals and the offense of Louis Adams III. With 2:11 remaining, McDowell got a steal and dish to Adams for a two-handed dunk that completed a 28-13 run and made it 66-58.

Orr (6-2) immediately got another steal and threw it inside to Amani Ousley, who missed his dunk. Jacksonville got a run out to Brandon Brockman who hit a layup to make it a 10-point game with 1:55 left.

Orr cut it to eight points two more times, but had to begin fouling and Jacksonville made its free throws.

The Red Devils were 11 of 16 from the line in the fourth quarter and 25 of 37 for the game. Orr hit 18 of 28 free throws.

Joyner gave his two starting post players credit for setting the tone of the game in the first half and leading his team to the big lead.

“Brandon Brockman and Khaleel Hart are the two unsung heroes of this game,” Joyner said. “Their big men dominated the night before and I told them we needed them to be aggressive. Put a body on them, push them off the block and don’t let them catch it down low. They went out there and did it and that’s what helped us win. They stood a lot taller than them, but my guys worked their butts off down there.”

Marlon Jones and Tyquane Greer (Chicago’s No. 1 rated sophomore) combined for 43 points the night before with Jones scoring 23. Against Jacksonville, Greer scored 12, but Jones just two.

“We knew they were big and were going to go inside,” Brockman said. “We just had to box out and play hard. We had to try to force them outside.”

“We’re nowhere near as tall as them so we had to box them way out and keep them away from the goal before they even caught it,” added Hart.

Another key statistic in the game was Jacksonville’s 39-19 rebounding advantage. Hart and Sergio Berkley led the way with seven each. McCleary had six, Brockman five, Aaron Smith and Kevin Richardson four apiece.

Adams Jr. noticed the difference between the two teams’ effort on the boards.
“They rebounded as a team and we stood and watched,” Adams said. “There’s no reason for a disparity like that except that one team was playing hard for four quarters and one team wasn’t.”

Smith led the Red Devils (7-3) in scoring with 17 points. Berkley added 11 and McCleary 10. Adams III scored nearly half his team’s points with 29, including 18 in the fourth quarter.


In the previous game against Putnam City West, the game was much slower, but still in Jacksonville’s control most of the way.

The Patriots have also played a national schedule so far and entered the tournament with a record of 2-4. They found the going no easier against the Red Devils. Jacksonville spent the early part of the first and second quarters stretching out double digit leads, only to see PCW come back to make it close at quarter’s end. Jacksonville led just 23-20 at halftime, and stretched it out to 11 again in the third quarter. The lead was down to 36-29 by the end of the third.

Omega Harris hit a three pointer with 5:20 left in the game to make it 40-37, and although the final margin was only five, the Patriots were never closer than that after Hart answered Harris’ three with a layup at the other end.

“They played good defense and made scoring difficult,” Joyner said of PCW.

The Red Devils did not enjoy a rebounding advantage against the Patriots. The team from Oklahoma City bested Jacksonville 37-24 on the boards.

The Red Devils were 15 of 26 from the free-throw line while the Patriots were 18 of 25. Smith and Hart each scored 12 points to lead Jacksonville while Harris led PCW with 11.