N. Clayton, Jonesboro split

By Jeffery Armstrong

The No. 1 Jonesboro Lady Cardinals basketball team started the new year the same way they finished in 2004 - with a win.

The Lady Cardinals sprinted to a 13-3 first-quarter lead and never looked back, rolling to a 42-28 victory over the North Clayton Lady Eagles in Region 5-AAAA action Tuesday night with a recruiter from Georgia Tech among the hundreds in attendance. With the win, Jonesboro stays undefeated at 14-0 while the Lady Eagles drop to 6-7 overall, having lost four straight games.

Jonesboro showed why it is the top-ranked team in Class AAAA, but the homestanding Lady Eagles were at a disadvantage from the start. The Lady Eagles arrived home at 2 a.m. Tuesday morning from a tournament in Naples, Fla., the second of two tournaments they played over the holidays. North Clayton's dead legs showed, as the Lady Eagles missed nine of their first 10 shots. In fact, North Clayton's first basket came on a jumper by Jasmine Sykes (seven points, six rebounds) with 55 seconds left in the first quarter.

Sheena Brown's six points in the second quarter widened Jonesboro's lead and North Clayton kept missing shots, allowing the Lady Cardinals to lead 24-9 at the half. Ashley Johnson helped North Clayton get within 10 at 25-15 with 3:04 left in the third by hitting two free throws and making a nice dish to Michelle Keith for a layup.

But Jonesboro point guard Shade' Smith personally took over the game, scoring four straight points for a 29-15 lead and North Clayton just couldn't catch up. Whenever the Lady Eagles would make a run to get within 10 points, Smith would get a basket to thwart their run. Smith led all scorers with 22 points. Jasmine and Jawanda Duffey didn't score much for Jonesboro, but they had an effect on defense. Jasmine had 12 blocks and six rebounds and Jawanda had six rebounds and two blocks. Keith led North Clayton with nine points.

North Clayton 60, Jonesboro 28 (boys): Former Jonesboro football and basketball standout Harry Douglas was in attendance and the current Jonesboro Cardinals could've used him Tuesday night, falling hard to the North Clayton Eagles 60-28 in Region 5-AAAA action. This game was out of hand from the start, as North Clayton (11-3) rolled to a 17-2 first-quarter lead and cruised to the home victory. North Clayton's traps and pressure befuddled the young Cardinals, allowing the Eagles to lead 32-8 at the half and 50-17 after three quarters. Jamal Bowers led a balanced North Clayton attack with 10 points and Dominique Mitchell and Shawn Christian added nine each. Brandon Hosely led Jonesboro (5-9) with six points.