By Doug Gorman
The Jonesboro Lady Cardinals stayed unbeaten and probably held on to their No. 1 Class AAAA state ranking Friday night in their game against rival Forest Park, but it sure wasn't easy.
Forest Park kept the game close for three quarters, before the top-ranked Lady Cardinals stepped it up on defense, winning the Region 5-AAAA cross-over game 43-34.
It was Jonesboro's 15th win of the season.
The two teams went into the fourth quarter with the game tied at 28, but good defense including three blocked shots in the fourth quarter by Jasmine Duffey help the Lady Cardinals hold Forest Park to just six points in the final quarter.
Sister Jawanda Duffey hit a basket to give Jonesboro a 30-28 lead. After Kawanikki Sanders hit a shot for Forest Park to tie the game at 30-all, Jasmine Duffey gave the Lady Cardinals the lead for good.
"I was really proud of the way we responded with our defense," said Jonesboro coach John Kovzel. "I didn't think we shot the ball too well, but it was a good win."
Jonesboro's Shade' Smith scored 14 points to lead the Lady Cardinals Jennifer Jefferson added 14 for Forest Park in a game that saw several switches in momentum.
Forest Park led 11-7 at the end of the first quarter. Jonesboro however caught fire in the second quarter and closed out the final minutes of the first half on an 8-1 run. Jessica Pippin hit two baskets during the second quarter and Smith drained one of her three 3-pointers in the quarter to help Jonesboro lead 19-17 at the end of the first half.
Early in the second quarter, Jefferson hit a shot to give Forest Park a 14-9 lead before Jonesboro took control of the contest to lead at the half.
Forest Park 51, Jonesboro 48 (boys): The Forest Park Panthers played with a split personality Friday night.
They spent part of the first half trying to catch the Jonesboro Cardinals, and then part of the second half trying to hold them off.
In the end, they held off Jonesboro's desperation 3-point attempt to tie the game en route to a 51-48 victory.
Edima Ufot led Forest Park with 18 points. Tony Peaks added 10. Jonesboro's Brandon Hosely scored 10 to lead the Cardinals.
Xavious Benjamin came up with a couple of big shots in the fourth quarter, including free throws to give the Panthers the final margin.
Jonesboro led 11-8 at the end of the first quarter and built 24-10 lead midway through the second quarter.
Forest Park then went on a run of its own scoring 14 straight points before Jonesboro led 25-24 at the break.
At the end of the third quarter, Jonesboro led 36-35.
Jonesboro plays at home against Lovejoy.