By Brian Paglia
Dutchtown disrupted Jonesboro's rhythm and confidence with the same formula that took the Lady Cardinals to the Final Four of the Class AAAA state tournament last season: steal, run and score. The Lady Bulldogs relished every turnover and blocked shot, using them to fuel their frenetic transition offense that Jonesboro could not contain.
The result was a resounding statement by Dutchtown -- a 79-51 victory Tuesday over reigning Region 4-AAAA champion Jonesboro in the region opener for both teams.
"I wasn't expecting to come out that big. It's actually a shock to me," Dutchtown second-year coach Angela Williams said. "I'm hoping it's not a fluke, that my girls can continue to play that way for the rest of the season."
No team last season provided Dutchtown (3-0, 1-0) more frustration than the Lady Cardinals (2-2, 0-1). Jonesboro won each of the team's three meetings, including the last one in the region tournament final. With much of its team intact from a season ago, Dutchtown resolved to usurp Jonesboro's region dominance this season.
With a drastically different roster, the Lady Cardinals made that goal easily attainable, at least for one night. Jonesboro committed 11 of its 17 turnovers in the first half and could not stop Dutchtown's top three scoring threats in Strickland twins Brittney (30 points) and Alyssa (15 points) and forward Abria Trice (16 points).
After a competitive first quarter, Dutchtown began to seize the momentum when Williams made a strategic decision.
She started her team in a man-to-man defense, but switching to a 2-3 zone in the second quarter slowed Jonesboro and forced errant jumpshots. Dutchtown promptly went on an 11-3 run in the second quarter.
By the end of the first half, the Lady Bulldogs led 37-23.
"I like our aggressiveness in the man, but we were fouling too much," Williams said. "So I felt like the 2-3 (zone) would give us more poise on defense and make Jonesboro shoot the ball."
"For us, we've got to set the tone defensively," Jonesboro first-year coach Michael House said. "We're trying to play with the lead. Very early we put ourselves in the hole. That is not something we can do."
After losing three starters from a year ago, including Clayton County player of the year Joi Holyfield and All-Southern Crescent first-teamer Drameka Griggs, the Lady Cardinals were void of a go-to presence on offense.
Jonesboro's lone returning starters, seniors Jasmine Manning and Laquinta Gallashaw, led Jonesboro with 15 and 13 points respectively.
The spotlight instead went to Dutchtown's trio of scoring threats, to the sight of the Strickland twins and Trice flying up and down the court and finishing with swift baskets.
Just the way Jonesboro used to.
"I think this shows us that we can accomplish all the goals that we set for ourselves," Williams said. "This the first of many goals that we set, so I think it gives us the confidence."