By Zack Huffman
Jimmy Fields is a man who knows a thing or two about winning basketball games.
Just outside his office hangs a small, simple blackboard with the words "Lady Cardinals, Region Champions, State Champions, 30-1," all on successive lines.
Inside, where some coaches might have a few books about coaching or inspirational biographies on professional coaches, Fields has a few old photos from his successful runs from his previous coaching jobs.
While changes in coaching staff can be the scourge of hardwood success, the Lady Cardinals have been tearing up the competition under the helm of new head coach Fields.
"Being my first year here with the girls, I thought it would take 5-6 games before the girls got comfortable with the system," said Fields. "But they picked it up early."
As anyone familiar with 4-AAAA basketball knows, the road to the girls' region championship runs directly through Jonesboro High School.
At 18-1 with an undefeated region record the ladies from Jonesboro have been dominating all challengers.
According to Fields, the greatest obstacle that stands in his squad's path may just be their own success.
"Our biggest thing is to make sure the girls do not get complacent," he said. "I want to make sure my girls stay focused."
On average, the Lady Cardinals have been defeating their opponents by a margin of 20-points. With those kinds of numbers, the Lady Cardinals run the risk of taking their opponents for granted.
This is especially true of opponents they have already faced in the region.
While some might argue that Jonesboro may be peeking too early, according to Fields, the Lady Cardinals has yet to play a complete game before they Forest Park last Friday, 49-16.
"We're peeking right now, at the right time," said Fields. "When you play a high school team and you hold them to 16 points, I think you are doing something right."
The most obvious sign that the Lady Cardinals have their best basketball ahead of them is the return of senior Sharmesia Smith.
Before the end of volleyball season, Smith broke her foot keeping her out of the majority of the current basketball season.
Despite the set back, Smith was successful enough in her junior year to earn a scholarship to Mercer University.
Smith is not the only D-1 talent Jonesboro is able to boast.
Drameka Griggs has signed to the University of Jacksonville, while Joi Holyfield is still deciding between a few different D-1 schools.
Now that Jonesboro has the final piece to its puzzle, the Lady Cardinals can focus on fulfilling the goals they set at the beginning of the season. According to Fields, he knew that Lady Cardinals would be something special this season, after watching his new team plow its way through 40 summer camp basketball games, giving up just a single loss.
Before the season officially began for Jonesboro, Fields invited his entire team along with their parents for a barbecue at his house.
During the party, Fields passed out pieces of cakes with plastic rings on each slice.
"This is our championship ring, and we're going to replace it with a real one come March," he said to his team.
Fields is certain that all he has to do to make that goal a reality is to make sure his team can does not take its success for granted come region tournament time.
"It is going to be tough to beat teams three times in one year," he said. "Unless you're just head and shoulders above everybody else, when you're playing good coaches, the third time they're going to eventually come up with something to stop you."
The Lady Cardinals' next stop towards the region tournament will come tonight at Alcovy High School.
Complacency will likely be at the forefront of Fields' mind as his squad looks to extend their 17-game winning streak against the bottom-ranked team in 4-AAAA.
The Lady Cardinals' male counterparts will likely have more pressure to contend with as Jonesboro's boys' team will be battling for the first-place spot in the region.
Although Jonesboro came out on top from their last showdown with Alcovy, it was a three-point win in overtime, meaning Alcovy will likely be out for vengeance.
The Lady Cardinals start at 6 p.m.