Sigh of relief
FORT WHITE — Some press defense to go along with a little bit of Mahari Peoples.
Oh, and some DJ Jackson.
A lot of DJ Jackson.
All mixed together for a recipe of relief.
Jackson scored 21 points while Peoples added 13 more to lead the Indians past Keystone Heights, 53-45, at home Thursday night, ending a six-game losing streak.
Fort White led by 17 entering the fourth quarter but had to hold off a late surge by Keystone Heights, which cut the lead to just five midway through the fourth quarter. The Indians went scoreless for more than five minutes to open the quarter before Jackson answered the call.
Jackson got the the foul line for four free throws before taking a steal for a layup with 2:02 remaining to put Fort White (6-15) back up double digits 56-46 to distance itself from Keystone Heights (5-15) for good.
“This win is really big for us and is going to boost our confidence up, especially going into the (district) tournament in a couple of weeks,” Jackson said. “A six-game losing streak is really bad, but when you win right before a tournament, it’s really good. It gives you a boost.”
The junior guard scored nine of his 21 in the third quarter as Fort White pushed a 10-point halftime lead to 17 entering the fourth quarter. Jackson now has scoring totals of 21, 26, 35, 30 and 17 in his last five games.
“He’s definitely a leader, a guy that’s mentally sound and is scoring because he’s able to do more than one thing,” Fort White head coach Isaiah Phillips said. “Last year he was focusing on just 3-point shooting, but (last) summer I told him we need a scorer, not just a 3-point shooter. And he’s attacking the basket, and his ball-handling skills have improved.”
Earl Hall led Keystone Heights with 12 points before fouling out late in the fourth, while Damon Keeler, Ray Kirtley and Fletcher Teague each scored nine. Teague scored all of his in the fourth on three 3-pointers, two of which were part of a 12-0 run to begin the final eight minutes.
A 3-pointer by Hall made the score 44-39 with just over three minutes remaining before Jackson closed the deal.
“We took our foot off the gas and we kind of shied away from our pressure we were accustomed to,” said Jackson, who also had five steals.
Keystone Heights jumped out to a 17-12 first-quarter lead before Fort White exerted some defensive pressure. Peoples had also had enough, opening the second quarter with back-to-back layups before drilling a 3-pointer to put the Indians ahead 19-17 and for good.
Peoples scored 11 of his 13 points in the quarter as Fort White switched to a press defense that Keystone Heights had no answer for. Fort White held Keystone Heights scoreless in the frame until Earl Hall made two free throws with 2:01 left in the half.
Keystone Heights didn’t even make a field goal in the quarter until Kirtley’s putback with 24 seconds left.
“At the beginning of the game, I tried to get everybody involved and everybody playing, so I had two different groups go in, but that didn’t work out. So in the second quarter, I went to the ones that I thought were performing better in the first quarter, and that made a difference,” Phillips said.