By Brian Paglia
Jonesboro guard Cameron Sutton drove down the court on a fast-break late in the Cardinals game at Forest Park on Friday. As Sutton neared the basket, two Panthers defenders were glued to his every move. Surely, they thought, Sutton would attack the rim hoping to either make a lay-up or draw a foul.
They were wrong.
Instead, Sutton abruptly stopped, and the Forest Park defenders went flying by, unable to stop their momentum. Left all alone under the basket, Sutton made an easy lay-up with 1:18 left in the game that saved Jonesboro during an ugly performance.
"Cameron Sutton won us the game," Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman said after the Cardinals' 50-41 win. "His composure won us the game."
Jonesboro (6-0, 3-0 Region 4-AAAA) came into this season with eight sophomores on the roster, but Sutton is no ordinary sophomore.
The 6-foot guard started every game last season as a freshman, which Maehlman called "a rarity" during his tenure as head boys basketball coach, in a complimentary role as a defensive specialist who regularly guarded the opponents' best scorer.
Maehlman wants more from Sutton this season. Even with two Division I signees that can score, Maehlman said Sutton needs to help. He has, as evidenced by his 15 points Friday against Forest Park.
Maehlman said Sutton's poise and character belie his age.
"When I call a timeout, he's the only one who looks me in the eye," Maehlman said. "We're blessed to have Cameron Sutton. He's just one of those special few players you only get once in awhile. In my 11 years, we've had maybe two. He's another."
Forming an identity
During the Forest Park girls basketball team's run to the Class AAAA semifinals last season, the Lady Panthers were a strong defensive team.
But not quite this strong.
Through five games, No. 2-ranked Forest Park (4-1, 3-0 Region 4-AAAA) hasn't allowed more than 30 points to a team from Georgia. The Lady Panthers had another impressive defensive performance Saturday in a 78-26 win over Morrow.
"We've chosen defense to be the identity of our program," Forest Park coach Steven Cole said Friday after the Lady Panthers' 81-29 win over Jonesboro.
Forest Park played two out-of-state teams in an early-season tournament, losing 61-56 to Ridgeway (Tenn.) and beating West Memphis (Ark.), 58-41. Since then, Forest Park has been giving up just 19.7 points per game.