By Brian Paglia
The last time Jonesboro and Stockbridge met, it was a theatrical performance. But at that point in the season, teams were just beginning to embark on the arduous stretch of its region schedule. Neither the Cardinals or the Tigers anticipated they would be the same team when they met again Tuesday night at Jonesboro.
Yet, the circumstances seemed oddly mirrored. Jonesboro and Stockbridge entered the game jockeying for top position in the region standings, with both coaches fervent that their team had still not reached the level of play they seem capable of.
Thus the game unfolded in similarly dramatic fashion, as the Cardinals followed a remarkable last-minute comeback with a dominating overtime to remain atop the Region 4-AAAA standings with an 80-66 victory Tuesday on Senior Night.
The Cardinals (13-9, 9-4) won their second consecutive game after stumbling through two straight losses last week. Senior forward Jason Griffin led Jonesboro with 22 points, including five in the pivotal overtime, while Jesse Gardner made 7-of-8 free throws in overtime to finish with 15 points. Senior guards Stanley Clark (16 points) and DeCharles Ridley (14 points) both helped Jonesboro survive a tumultuous second-half with clutch free throw shooting.
"It's the thing we've been preaching to these kids all year, is to not give up," Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman said. "Even though they keep making mistakes, they kept their head up the whole time. Sometimes some of them get down on themselves with the way I coach, and I'm a pretty intense coach on the sidelines, but they're starting to learn to listen to what I say."
Chris Davis was the one Stockbridge player Jonesboro committed to shutting down. The junior came in averaging 21.5 points a game and was unstoppable in spurts. He finished with 22 points, but he scored 18 of that in the second half and was held scoreless in overtime before fouling out. Forwards Kevin Burke (14 points) and Dante Campbell (13 points) took advantage of their slight advantage in size, but neither contributed in overtime.
Campbell stole a pass at the top of the key and drove for a layup, then the Tigers forced Jonesboro to turn it over on two straight possessions. Suddenly, the Tigers led 57-52 with just over three minutes remaining.
After Clark drove for a layup to tie the game at 59-59, Stockbridge scored five straight points, going up 64-59 when Davis made one free throw in the double bonus. But the Tigers imploded the rest of the way, and Jonesboro took advantage.
Gardner missed on a desperate drive in the waning seconds, but Griffin was left open under the basket and made an easy putback to tie the game at 64-64 with 2 seconds left. He scored the first four points in overtime, then Gardner made free throws as Stockbridge continued to foul and extend its chances.
"I just didn't think we handled the pressure very well," Stockbridge coach Duane Kelley said. "We were up five with 40 seconds left. Basically, we just folded."
· Jonesboro 68, Stockbridge 50 (Girls): Four players scored in double figures and the Lady Cardinals pulled away in the second half for a dominating Region 4-AAAA victory Tuesday night.
The No. 5 Lady Cardinals (21-0, 13-0) won their 20th consecutive game thanks in part to Joi Holyfield's 14 points. Jasmine Manning (12 points) and Sharmesia Smith (10 points) established Jonesboro's inside presence. Drameka Griggs added 11 points.
Stockbridge (10-14, 5-10) kept it close in the first half with Synamon Martin's outside shooting. Martin finished with 25 points, but the Lady Tigers had difficulty finding other to contribute. Alexis Taylor had 12 points and eight rebounds.