By Anthony Rhoads
DALTON - The Jonesboro Lady Cardinal's hopes of a state championship ended Saturday night with a 56-51 loss to Etowah in the quarterfinals of the Class AAAA tournament at the Northwest Georgia Trade Center.
It was Jonesboro's (28-3) first appearance in the Elite 8 after making state for four straight seasons.
Jonesboro led by six (34-28) midway through the third quarter but Etowah went on a 17-2 run over the next six minutes.
It also didn't help Jonesboro's cause when senior point guard Shadé Smith got into foul trouble early in the third quarter. Smith got her third foul with about 5:38 remaining in the third quarter and her fourth foul early in the fourth quarter. Smith, who sat out for much of the second half, finished with 11 points.
"That was huge, plus they made all their free throws," Kovzel said.
Jonesboro trailed 14-12 at the end of the first quarter but Jasmine Duffey tied the game at 14-14 early in the second quarter.
Duffey led Jonesboro with 18 points. The junior center also had eight rebounds and five blocks.
Jonesboro claimed an 16-14 lead early in the second quarter thanks to a Sheena Brown basket. Jonesboro led the rest of the second quarter, carrying a 27-22 advantage into the half.
Jonesboro extended its lead to 34-28 when Jawanda Duffey made a pair of free throws at the 3:55 mark of the third quarter.
Etowah managed to come back and with 45 seconds remaining in the third, Tagan Hatchett made a 3-pointer to bring her team to within one point (35-34). Hatchett led all scorers with 22 points while teammates Lisa Gaunder and Tiana Brantley added nine points each.
Early in the fourth quarter, Etowah snagged a 36-35 lead with two Gaunder free throws. Etowah led from that point on.
Etowah went on an 11-0 lead to start the fourth quarter and built a 45-35 lead.
Jonesboro ended its scoring droughthalfway through the fourth quarter when Shadé Smith nailed a 3-pointer to bring the Lady Cardinals to within seven points (45-38).
The 2004-05 season will go down as one of the best in school history as the team won the sub-region championship and the Region 5-AAAA title. The Lady Cardinals were ranked No. 1 for several weeks in the state-wide coaches' poll.
Jonesboro beat 74-51 Rome in the first round of the state playoffs and knocked off Lakeside-DeKalb 40-23 n the second round.
"We had a really great season," Jonesboro head coach John Kovzel said.
Jonesboro has been to the state tournament every season since 2002 but before that, the team's last state playoff appearance was in 1967. The Jonesboro girls' other state playoff appearance was in 1957.