By Doug Gorman
It would have been easy for Jonesboro head coach John Kovzel not to be focused on Saturday's game at Stockbridge.
Kovzel's wife is expected to give birth to the couple's daughter any day now and despite leading the Lady Cardinals out on the floor, the coach was prepared to make a beeline to the hospital in the event the call came in during Saturday's Class AAAAA contest.
Kovzel got to stay with his team for all four quarters, and after a slow start, the 15th-ranked Lady Cardinals rolled to a 44-28 victory.
"We did a really good job of shooting free throws," he said "I think that was really the difference."
Shade' Smith led the Cardinals with 12 points, Jawanda Duffey had 10.
Jonesboro, which is still in first place in the Region 2-AAAAA standings with a 19-4 overall record and a 13-3 mark in region play with two regular-season games left, struggled through most of the first quarter before getting its game on track.
The Lady Cardinals fell behind Stockbridge 8-4 early, but slowy crawled back in the contest.
Erin Durham's basket and foul shot completed the three-point play and cut Stockbridge's lead to 8-7.
With time running out in the period, the Lady Cardinals forced a turnover leading to Jawanda Duffey's uncontested layup at the buzzer.
The basket gave the Lady Cardinals their first lead of the game at 9-8.
Jonesboro never trailed again.
In the second quarter, Stockbridge went almost eight minutes without converting a shot from the floor.
That allowd the Lady Cardinals to build a 25-17 lead at the half.
Smith 3-point shot midway through the third quarter increased Jonesboro's lead to 29-17.
Her basket to close out period gave the Lady Cardinals a 35-23 lead.
Both offenses went to sleep in the final period, but the Lady Cardinals kept the margin at double figures with seven free throws in the final eight minutes.
Stockbridge 69, Jonesboro 59 (boys): The Stockbridge Tigers used a pair of 3-point shots and a traditional 2-point basket early in the game to grabbed a quick 10-2 lead and quickly seize the momentum.
They also caught Jonesboro on a night when Auburn signee Toney Douglas wasn't 100 percent.
It all translated into a 69-59 victory for Stockbridge, which has already clinched the Region 2-AAAAA title.
Both teams tried to turn the game into a 3-point shooting contest as Stockbridge drilled six treys and Jonesboro four.
The Tigers increased the margin to 19-10 at the end of the first period.
Stockbridge lead by as many as 14 late in the second quarter when Derrick McFarlin gave the Tigers' a 32-18 lead, but the Cardinals closed the gap to 32-21 at the end of the first half.
Both teams used a balanced scoring attack and placed three players each in double figures.
McFarlin led Stockbridge with 24 points. Markel Humphrey added 20 and Calvin Newsome chipped in 12.
Kenny Harris, who caught fire in the third quarter with three 3-point shots, led Jonesboro with 19. Douglas scored 16 and Jamal Lewis 11.
Douglas got off to a slow start for the Cardinals and didn't score his first field goal of the game until 6:46 remaining in the third quarter.
That began a wild second half in which both teams traded baskets. Harris stepped up his game in the third quarter, drilling three 3-point shots.
His final trey of the period cut the gap to 45-38.
The Cardinals continued to fight back in the final period. A basket by Harris very late in the third quarter closed the Stockridge led to 60-57.
Mt. Zion 58, Morrow 48 (boys): Michael Bennett and Anthony Snell led Mt. Zion Saturday with 13 points each.
Mt. Zion 44, Morrow 32 (girls): Whitney Linton led the Mt. Zion girls with 11 points.
Eagle's Landing Christian 60, Mt. Pisgah 41 (boys): Eagle's Landing Christian (13-8 overall, 7-4 in GISA Region 1-AAA) won its sixth straight game Saturday with a 60-41 victory over Mt. Pisgah.
Clay Reeves scored 14 and other leading scorers with Kyle Pope with 12, Lee Nix with nine and Phillip Brown with eight.
Friday night, ELCA beat Fellowship Christian 45-40 on the road.
Reeves led the Chargers with 14 and Pope added 10. Alec Huber pulled down nine rebounds.