Jacksonville point guard Justin McCleary helped shut down the Warriors Friday night.
Sometimes even the best teams need a wake-up call, and it certainly seems like the Jacksonville Red Devils are wide-awake right now.
Following a loss to the Mills Comets on Tuesday last week, Jacksonville has bounced back to easily handle Little Rock Christian in a 54-26 win and the North Pulaski Falcons 58-34.
Almost always a solid defensive team, the Red Devils have taken their defense to another level.
“After the way we played at Mills, I was going to prove a point and we were going to play defense,” Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner said. “If somebody let’s a man by them and the help defense didn’t get over like I wanted, that whole unit came out and the next went in. I don’t care who starts or gets the playing time, but they’re going to play some defense.”
Jacksonville had seven different players score the first seven field goals of the game as coach Joyner shuffled different lineups in and out of the game regularly. Jacksonville’s defense didn’t allow a point for nearly the first seven minutes against Little Rock Christian, and allowed just 10 points in the first half. The Red Devils led 20-5 after the first quarter and 50-22 heading into the fourth quarter.
By the opening seconds of the second quarter, the Red Devils had already used 15 different players. By the end of the game, 12 of those players scored, while two others didn’t because of missed free throws.
Khaleel Hart led Jacksonville with 12 points and was the only Red Devil in double figures. Aaron Smith and Reggie Barnes were next with seven points apiece.
Against North Pulaski on Tuesday night, Jacksonville scored the first six points of the game and went on a 16-0 run that began near the end of the first quarter and lasted past the midway point of the second quarter.
The Red Devils led 32-9 at halftime, making the scores of their last two first halves a combined 62-19.
Jacksonville led by as much as 39-11 in the third quarter before easing off the throttle.
“We’re trying hard to play better defense and be more efficient on offense,” said Joyner. “We haven’t scored quite as much the last two games, but we’re getting better shots and we’re giving up fewer points.”
Justin McCleary led Jacksonville with 15 points against the Falcons. Sergio Berkley and Smith each had nine points, while Keith Charleston scored five points in his first game back in weeks after a knee injury.