By Brian Paglia
Four minutes had passed in Jonesboro's girls basketball team's game last Friday night against Glenn Hills, and the No. 1-seeded Lady Cardinals didn't resemble the state-title contender they played like during a remarkable regular season.
Their first shot of the game was an air-ball from behind the arc, while Glenn Hills made long-range shots look easy.
Trailing by seven, Jonesboro pushed the ball up the court on one possession, only to turn an easy pass into a turnover.
With the game only 3:29 old, even Jonesboro's players knew a timeout was needed.
"They realized I needed a timeout before I did," Jonesboro coach Jimmy Fields said.
After Fields' timeout, the Lady Cardinals went on a 20-3 run to seize control of the game. He made adjustments - unleashing Jonesboro's full-court press - and his team executed them, awarding Jonesboro (28-1) with a second-round contest tonight against Brunswick (21-3) in the GHSA Class AAAA tournament at 7 p.m.
Fields made those in-game adjustments thanks to his own basketball acumen and first-hand scouting of Glenn Hills a week before they met. That luxury doesn't exist for teams in the second round.
Without time to exchange game tapes, coaches scramble to gather as much second-hand information on opponents as they can.
"Basically, all you can do is get on the phone, you know, and talk to some people," said Jonesboro boys basketball coach Dan Maehlman, whose team hosts second-seed Glynn Academy (18-11) tomorrow at 7 p.m.
"Look at their schedule. If you've been around long enough, sometimes you know some people in different areas of the state. Just try to figure out as much as you can."
Through a coaching contact, Fields acquired film of Brunswick, though it required him driving to Macon to retrieve it. Most coaches aren't so lucky. Forest Park boys coach Steven Cole, who takes his Panthers team to Statesboro (24-4) tomorrow, has relied on calling friends in the coaching fraternity.
"If you don't have a large staff, you pretty much just get on the phone and get anything you learn about a team from word-of-mouth," Cole said. "Just have to call your friends, somebody you know the team played, or other teams that played them and get as much information as you can get."
Weather complicated matters for Clayton County teams. Snow on Sunday prevented some teams from practicing, stealing precious time to prepare.
But at this point in the season, when it becomes impossible to learn an opponent's every tendency, without the days available to construct in-depth strategies, teams primarily work on refining their own style.
"We just worked on some of our own things," Cole said. "We're not trying to put in anything new. Just going to try to do what we do best. We're just trying to polish up what we do and become better at what we do."
By now, teams have perfected their defensive and offensive styles.
Those styles have brought them to this stage, so coaches emphasize the status quo.
"From the beginning of the year, we just always concentrate on each game, one game at a time," said Riverdale boys coach Derick Powell, whose team faces Valdosta (27-1) tomorrow.
"I think that it's just going out and letting them know that each game is going to be different and letting them know we've played a lot of good competition this season. So we're prepared for this time of year."