By Jeffery Armstrong
With school back in session for the Clayton county high school basketball players, they will now hear school bells along with coaches' whistles.
Several teams will have competitive contests tonight. One marquee matchup in Region 2-AAAAA pits the Jonesboro Cardinals against the Stockbridge Tigers at Jonesboro. Game time is scheduled for 6 p.m. starting with the girls contest.
The Tigers (12-1) started the season on a roll, embarking on a long winning streak before losing their first game at Warner Robins. Jonesboro, ranked 7th in the state, has been hot lately, winning the War Eagle Invitational at Woodward Academy before Christmas and competing very well before losing to Avondale in the finals in the recent Salem High tournament.
As usual, the linchpin for Jonesboro's success has been the outstanding play of senior guard Toney Douglas, who has been on fire as of late. The Auburn signee has scored more than 30 points in several games over the holidays and seems to be primed to lead the Cardinals to the region title.
Jonesboro head coach Mack Cain admits that tonight's game against No. 8 Stockbridge will be the start of a tough week. Jonesboro (9-2) has to travel to face Henry County on Friday.
"I think that this is one of the best team's [Stockbridge head coach] Mark [Andrews] has had. They're deep and they've played together for so long," Cain said. "They understand their roles."
Stockbridge has done very well despite losing leading scorer Quin Humphrey to Youngstown State University in Ohio. This year, Humphrey's younger brother Markel has stepped up for Stockbridge and talented players such as Calvin Newsome, Charles Lane and Derrick McFarlin are truly familiar with each other and have made plays to help the Tigers win.
"I think Stockbridge is better than it was last year. The players tended to stand around and watch Quin last year, especially when they got into a pinch," Cain said. "Now, all the players are stepping up."
Cain said he hopes his team will play more as a team tonight like they did at the season's start. He feels it will take a total team effort to secure a win over the Tigers.
In other county games, No. 10 Lovejoy travels to Fayette County where it faces the McIntosh Chiefs in Region 4-AAAAA action and Mt. Zion travels to play Morrow in another key Region 2-AAAAA contest.
North Clayton hits the road to play Pebblebrook, Forest Park will travel to Woodward Academy and Riverdale will try to emulate Lovejoy and get a win at Carver-Columbus, something that is not easy to do.
All games will start at 6 p.m.
Rankings: The new state high school rankings are out and other ranked county teams include the Jonesboro Lady Cardinals (4th) and the Riverdale Lady Raiders (8th).