Lady Cardinals passing tests with flying colors

By Doug Gorman

If the high school basketball season was a series of tests, the Jonesboro Lady Cardinals would pass with flying colors.

Through their first 17 games, the Lady Cardinals have posted a perfect record, including a 5-0 mark in their half of Region 5-AAAA play.

The best start in school history has garnered the team a No.1 ranking in the Class AAAA state coaches' poll. It also means opposing teams have circled upcoming games with Jonesboro on their calendars.

"We are definitely a target for most teams," said Jonesboro head coach John Kovzel. "There's a bull's eye on our backs and every team is going after us."

But these tests are nothing more than mid-term exams. There's still plenty of basketball remaining for Jonesboro, including a subregion rematch against North Atlanta on the road tonight.

The game is expected to start about 7 p.m. Because of a change in the schedule, the Jonesboro-North Atlanta boys game tips off first at 5:30 p.m.

It's the second subregion road game this week for Jonesboro. Tuesday night the Lady Cardinals rallied to beat Mays 41-40 when Jawanda Duffey hit two free throws with 2.8 seconds remaining in the game.

Duffey's free throws sparked an incredible comeback which saw Jonesboro trail 20-6 at the half.

It's a game Kovzel called a character builder as his team tries to win a subregion and region title.

"Winning that game can do a whole lot for us mentally down the stretch," he said.

His players agree.

"We played with a lot of heart in that second half," said LaTreace Johnson, one of the Lady Cardinals' five seniors. "We were down at the half, but we just played our game and got back into it."

Jonesboro knows it better get used to playing on the road. The Lady Cardinals are home just two more times before moving into the post-season tournament.

"We are not to worried about playing on the road," said Shade' Smith, who recently scored her 1,000th point for the Lady Cardinals. "We are going to be on the road come tournament time, so we need to get used to it."

North Atlanta comes into the game ranked sixth in the weekly coaches' poll, but with a 53-42 loss to Southwest DeKalb hanging over its head Tuesday night. That loss dropped the Lady Warriors to 15-5 overall and 5-3 in league play.

The Lady Warriors have also lost twice to Mays.

Jonesboro has a pretty simple blueprint for beating its host tonight.

"We have got to play our game," said Sheena Brown. "We beat them the last time we played, and we know they are going to remember that."

Jonesboro fans are starting to jump on the team's bandwagon.

"People used to not get too excited about girls basketball at Jonesboro," said Smith. "When Toney (Douglas) was playing, everybody wanted to come out and see the boys team. Now, they are starting to come out to see us a little more. I still wish even more people would come out."

Brown admits her fellow students are starting to talk to her more about the team.

"They come up to me and ask me when we are going to play again, or they comment about reading a story about us in the paper."