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Without sidekicks, Holyfield carries Jonesboro

y Brian Paglia

bpaglia@news-daily.com

With 26.8 seconds left in the game, Joi Holyfield looked to the sideline and saw that her night was done. In came a set of fresh legs, and out came Holyfield to cheers of gratitude and admiration from a small contingent of Jonesboro fans behind the Lady Cardinals bench.

Jonesboro coach Jimmy Fields patted Holyfield on the back as she ran by him to take her seat and watch the final moments of Jonesboro's convincing 69-50 victory at Forest Park Friday night. Fields had urged Holyfield before the game to elevate her play in the absence of point guard Drameka Griggs, who tweaked her ankle earlier in the week at practice.

"I told her she had to step up because she's one of the leaders on the team, and we're missing Griggs, which is her sidekick," Fields said. "So I told her she was going to have to tote the load for us."

Holyfield more than accounted for Griggs' absence, scoring 29 points and adding eight assists and four steals. Laquinta Gallishaw and Jasmine Manning scored 11 each for Jonesboro (6-1, 3-0 in Region 4-AAAA), and Chanee Key had 18 rebounds along with nine points.

Holyfield took over point guard duties for Griggs, who averages 14.1 points a game, with aplomb. When the game teetered on the edge of chaos, she slowed the Lady Cardinals with half-court sets. When the Lady Panthers (4-1, 2-1) didn't get back on defense, Holyfield was astute enough to push the pace and lead Jonesboro on breakaway opportunities.

"(Griggs) can usually score 15 points, and somebody had to get them," Holyfield said. "I really just wanted a good win. I wanted everybody to play hard."

Three days earlier, Griggs led the Lady Cardinals to a dominating 61-41 victory over North Clayton with 21 points, 12 steals and five assists, and the difference without her was noticeable. Her replacement, Lakiesha Anderson, scored just 3 points, and even though Jonesboro led by as much as 15 in the third quarter, Forest Park managed to inch its way back. A floater by Holyfield made it 43-28 in the third quarter before Forest Park went on a 12-2 run to cut the lead to 5.

"They wanted it, but I guess Jonesboro wanted it more than we did," Forest Park coach Lawrence McGraw said.

But the Lady Cardinals scored 17 of the final 21 points in the game with a final spurt from its transition offense. Holyfield caught Gallishaw behind the Forest Park backcourt, then dished to Gallishaw on a two-on-one and pushed the lead to 63-48 with a deft hook shot in transition. One last floater made it 69-50, and Holyfield's work was done for the night.

"I told them it's going to be a four-quarter game," Fields said. "I said we're going to have to overcome some adversity when you're on the road against an undefeated team, and then plus we're missing two starters. So that showed a lot about our character the way we played."

· Jonesboro 49, Forest Park 47 (Boys): Jonesboro worked its way back from an early 10-point deficit to pull out a win at Forest Park in a Region 4-AAAA game Friday night.

Jesse Gardner and Jordan Brown led the Cardinals (4-2, 2-1) with 16 points each. Brandon McCarden led the Panthers with 12.

Forest Park jumped out to a 19-9 lead in the first quarter and frustrated Jonesboro's motion offense with a disciplined zone defense.

But the Cardinals gradually trimmed the lead, and Gardner scored the final five points in the first half to bring Jonesboro back in the game 26-25.