From Staff Reports
Playing over 1,500 miles away in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, the Jonesboro boys basketball team almost felt right at home in Mario Morales Coliseum. Between the throngs of fans there to see Jonesboro point guard and Puerto Rico-native Rasham Suarez, and players' families, the Cardinals had ample support in the 2010 Puerto Rico Hoops Championship.
And they put on a show. Tenth-ranked Jonesboro (11-2, 5-1 Region 4-AAAA) advanced to the championship game only to fall short one point, 47-46, to Carmen Sol (P.R.) High School.
The Cardinals impressive performance gave Suarez a compelling homecoming of sorts — he left Puerto Rico before high school to begin a cross-country trip that spanned three states — and, according to players, stirred the team's chemistry on and off the court.
"When we got off the airplane, I thought we were going to play a little rough," Suarez said. "But we played real good, and the crowd helped a lot."
On the court, Jonesboro faced some of the top high school teams in Puerto Rico, reeling off three wins against Marista (64-53), San Bandita (56-36) and Sta Maria (51-49) to make the championship game.
Against Carmen Sol, the Cardinals were reminded that one play — specifically, one breakdown on defense at the end — can make a difference.
"It was just a learning experience," senior James White said. "We have to keep putting our foots on the throats of our opponents and keep playing. The heart-breaking part I guess was we fell apart on the defensive side. We've got to listen to what our coaches say. Little things can cost us the game."
Off the court, Suarez set about introducing teammates to his home. He showed them historical sites in the capital city of San Juan. They saw how Suarez grew up in the neighborhood of Barrio Obrero and visited San Jorge Children's Hospital, where they visited terminally ill kids and gave them New York Knicks gear signed former Jonesboro standout Toney Douglas and other Knicks players, including star Amare Stoudemire.
"That was awesome," White said. "It makes us be happy with what we've got, to basically take care of one another, look out for each other."
White said Jonesboro returned from the 2010 Puerto Rico Hoops Championship with a greater belief in its ability and a greater confidence in each other.
"We didn't come back with a championship, but I think we came out with a victory," Suarez said. "I think we came out more as a team. We had each other's back when we were down.
"It was a good experience. We had fun. I was just glad for Coach (Dan) Maehlman and the parents and our hard-working season so far."
Other boys action
North Clayton didn't travel as far as region foe Jonesboro, but the Eagles did visit the hometown of coach Martisse Troup. The Eagles played in the U-Save-It Classic where they split games with Monroe and Westover.
North Clayton lost 35-32 to No. 8 Monroe of Class AAA before salvaging the trip with a 65-53 win over Westover behind a 40-point performance from junior Marcus Hunt.
"Overall, we played well in Albany," Troup said. "We faced some good competition, and we found out a lot about ourselves. We know we have to hold teams in the 50s for us to have a chance to win."
The Eagles will play in their second tournament today when they take on Mays, which played in the Class AAAA championship game last season. The Raiders have struggled some this season, but are still considered a legit playoff contender. Tip-off is 11 a.m. at the Lake City Classic Basketball Tournament at Allatoona High.
"We are definitely looking forward to the game," said Hunt, who was named the U-Save-It Classic MVP. "They beat us a couple points in a summer league game. They are a team that you want to do well against."
n: Ola: Cody Adkins hit the game-winning basket with 4.7 seconds left to give the Ola Mustangs a 71-69 victory over Whitewater in the Waltnut Grove holiday basketball tournament.
Adkins' basket helped cap a 15-2 run.
Justin Gant led the way for Ola with 22 points. Tre McBride added 16.
Ola plays today against the winner of the Prince Avenue Christian and Walnut Grove.
Local girls tournament results
n Dutchtown: The Lady Bulldogs (8-4, 2-1 3A-AAAA) took third place at the Chuck Miller Classic, winning games against Jackson (68-39) and Henry County (74-64), while losing to Heritage (62-48).
n Forest Park: The fifth-ranked Lady Panthers (7-3, 6-0 Region 4-AAAA) lost a pair of games to Marian Catholic (Ill.), 50-42, and Lafayette (Miss.), 53-40, in an out-of-state tournament.
n Mundy's Mill: The Lady Tigers (7-1, 4-1 Region 4-AAAA) won all three games at the 2010 Woodland Christmas Tournament against Woodland (45-41), Locust Grove (75-37) and Union Grove (57-37).
n Woodland: The Lady Wolfpack (10-2, 3-0 Region 3A-AAAA) hosted a round-robin tournament and won games against Union Grove (54-47) and Locust Grove (48-29), and lost to Mundy's Mill (45-41).