By Derrick Mahone
When Lovejoy coach Rick Francis was finally able to reach his office following the team's win over Jonesboro Friday, he just wanted to take a seat.
Exhausted from what had just transpired in the final minute of the Wildcats' 53-44 win over Jonesboro, the Lovejoy coach was excited and relied to see his team keep their composure during a tough stretch run.
Holding to a three-point lead in the closing seconds, Lovejoy scored four unanswered points and forced two turnovers as they remained undefeated through its first eight games with its Region 4-AAAA win Tuesday at home.
"They were the No. 1 team in our region, so this is a huge win for us," said Lovejoy junior center Justin Tuoyo, who finished with nine points.
"That was an unbelievable finish for our guys," Francis said. "I wanted to know how that would be able to finish a game under duress. We were able to weather the strong and showed our composure against a quality, well-coached team."
Lovejoy guard DeAngelo Anthony finished with 10 points and Jalen Sage added nine as the Wildcats improved to 4-0 in the region. The loss drops Jonesboro to 6-1 and 3-1 as the Cardinals were led by Arkansas-Little Rock signee James White, who scored 10 points. Cardinals point guard Rashem Suarez added nine points.
Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman wasn't pleased with the effort from his team throughout the game.
"Our kids are uncoachable," a disappointed coach said as he was leaving the building. "They always had something to say. It is amazing that we are 6-1. This was the first test we had, and we didn't play like a team out there. We didn't execute, and you can't win like that."
Lovejoy led throughout the game with the Cardinals tying it twice, but were never able to gain the lead. Although Jonesboro only had 10 turnovers, they came at crucial points during the game, especially in the closing seconds.
"Our shot selection was terrible," Maehlman said. "We had turnovers. We were out there pointing fingers at each other. We didn't play Jonesboro basketball tonight."
It was a complete opposite feeling from the Lovejoy side.
"We got good chemistry on this team," Tuoyo said. "We trust each other and we were able to finish strong at the end. We know what we can do, so we went to our strength."
Jonesboro girls 52, Lovejoy 45: Despite committing 35 turnovers, the Lady Cardinals won their second straight game to improve to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the region.
Sophomore Ashley Hand had 12 points and Briana Benson finished with 11 for the Lady Cardinals, who do not have a senior on its roster.
Jonesboro mad 4 of 6 free throws and a layup during the last 30 seconds of the game for the win. The Lady Cardinals have won four of their last five games to remaining in the top half of the region standings.
"Each win we get is building our confidence," Jonesboro second-year coach Michael House said. "We the game got down to the wire, we were able to put the kids in a good situation. We told them to take care of the basketball. I'm very proud because we told them that defense and free throws were going to be the key. They stepped up and responded."