By Derrick Mahone
The North Clayton boys did something that Jonesboro girls coach Michael House would like to have seen his team do in the opening game of Tuesday doubleheader - play better with a lead.
House saw his team's late 10-point fourth quarter lead evaporate as the Cardinals held on for a 56-52 Region 4-AAAA win against visiting North Clayton.
Some pressure defense by the Jonesboro players late in the fourth quarter helped preserved the win. Within striking distance of tying the game in the last minute, Jonesboro forced three key turnovers.
"A win is a win, and we will take it," Jonesboro coach Michael House said. "We had way too many turnovers. One of our goals is to play with a lead. We beat them three out of four quarters."
Jonesboro improved to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the region while North Clayton dropped to 1-3 and 0-2. The Cardinals were led by Jasmine Manning, who had 13 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Ka'Kiesha Anderson added 11 points off the bench and Ashley Houd had 10.
North Clayton was led by Miranda Cantrell, who had a game-high 23 points before fouling out late in the fourth. Arielle Thomas added 16 points for the Eagles, who have dropped their last three games.
There were seven lead changes, before Jonesboro finally took the lead for good with four minutes remaining in the third quarter. Anderson made a lay-up to give the Cardinals a 30-29 lead. They would get the lead up to 10 points, 44-34 with 4:09 remaining in the game.
However, North Clayton would not go away. The Eagles battled to within 53-30 with under a minute to play, but turnovers and Jonesboro free throw shooting was too much to overcome.
"Keisha played some great defense to force a lot of those turnovers," House said. "This was a great learning situation for us as we able to hang on for a win. North Clayton is a good team and they really battled back."
In the boys nightcap, Jonesboro jumped to a 10-3 first quarter lead, but wasn't able to hold on as the Eagles got a 54-26 region win. The Eagles outscored Jonesboro 19-1 in the second quarter to take a 22-11 halftime lead. From there, Jonesboro was never able to recover.
"That first quarter was sort of a defensive battle," North Clayton coach Martisse Troup said. "Jonesboro has a great team and in this region you have to battle every night."
With the win, North Clayton improved to 4-1 overall and 2-1 in the region after last week's loss to Forest Park. Jonesboro is 1-4 and 1-1.
"In that Forest Park game, we couldn't buy a basketball," Troup said. "Sometimes it takes a loss for you to get back to reality."
The players said they have learned their lesson after the Forest Park game.
"It was great to rebound with a win like this," North Clayton guard Jimmy Williams said. "Our bench really stepped up tonight."
The Eagles inside combination of Marcus Hunt and Justin Ravnell dominated in the paint. Hunt finished with a game-high 15 points while Ravnell added 10. Jonesboro leading scorer was Kashan Suarez, who had five points.
"We talked about defense in practice this week," Williams said. "We wanted to play better defense than we did in the last game."