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A look back at the prep hoops season

By Anthony Rhoads

The Jonesboro girls basketball team walked out of their locker room area in a daze.

While the Etowah girls celebrated making it to the Class AAAA Final Four, the Lady Cardinals had to come to the realization the 2004-05 season had come to an end with a loss in the quarterfinals of the state tournament in Dalton.

They had been farther than any other team in school history but they still didn't achieve their goal - winning a state championship. Yes, it was nice to have gone to the quarterfinals but these girls were competitors and they wanted more. For the seniors, Shadé Smith, Jessica Pippin, Latreace Johnson, Sheena Brown and Erin Durham, it would be their last game in a Jonesboro uniform and the end of a great run in their high school careers. They got to make state for four straight years but they wanted more.

The younger players will get another chance next year and chances are they are going to get to go back to state. With the 'twin towers' Jasmine and Jawanda Duffey returning and when you throw in players like Kala Smith and Janae Crittendon into the mix, the Lady Cardinals should be able to make another run in the state tournament. But this year, they wanted more.

Coach John Kovzel wanted more.

Kovzel could barely speak after the game. In past contests, even when his team had lost, Kovzel has always been a good guy with us at the Daily and has always took the time to talk but Saturday was a different story. He gave me a couple of brief comments after the game but he really couldn't talk much and said "I can't give you much of a comment right now. I hope you understand."

Yes, it was definitely understandable. Kovzel is a competitor and wants to see his team to their best and achieve their goals. Even when they won, he wasn't automatically going to be happy if they didn't play a good game. The team didn't play all that well in their second round victory over Lakeside-DeKalb and the mood was almost like they had lost because the standard has been set extremely high. Both Kovzel and his players certainly were glad to get to the final eight but they weren't satisfied. They wanted more.

Even though they didn't achieve their goal of winning a state championship, they certainly didn't have anything to hang their heads about. Even without a state title, those girls are winners.

Other thoughts on the basketball season: The Riverdale girls also had a fine season this year. The Lady Raiders have definitely been one of the most consistent programs in the area over the last several years. Four years ago, they were on the losing end of an upset victory by Jonesboro and didn't make state but for three years in a row, they've gone to the Elite 8 three times and once to the Final 4.

The North Clayton boys have been to state for two years in a row under the direction of head coach Steven Cole. Cole has done a good job with the Eagles in the two years he has been there.

The Henry County boys got to make two straight trips to state for the first time since the early 1980s and featured one of the most exciting offenses in the area this year with Herman Mains and Greg Lindsey.

I also was impressed with the Mundy's Mill boys and girls this year. In just their third year of existence, they qualified for the state tournament, which is a remarkable accomplishment. I also like the fact that they did it playing team basketball. I especially liked watching the Mundy's Mill boys this year because they were a cohesive unit and really played as a team.

The Stockbridge girls have struggled for several years but they had a great season this year. New head coach Tondra Irby turned the program around in 2004-05 and they got to go to state for the first time since 1992.

You also have to appreciate the coaching job A.C. McCullers did this season at Union Grove. After several seasons coaching the Clayton State women, McCullers returned to his high school game this year and guided the Lady Wolverines to their first winning season in school history. I wouldn't be surprised if Union Grove snags a state tournament spot next season.

Anthony Rhoads is a sports writer for the Daily. He can be reached at arhoads@news-daily.com .