By Doug Gorman
The Jonesboro Cardinals may have played a better game during the course of the season, but in the end, Friday night's Region 4-AAAA match up against Ola might just be the type of game head coach Dan Maehlman's squad needed to get ready for the upcoming region tournament.
Despite trailing 26-20 at the half, Jonesboro clawed its way back over the final two periods to win 51-46.
The victory gives Jonesboro a 14-9 oveall record and an 11-4 mark in region play.
Ola fell to 9-13 overall and 6-9 in league action.
Jonesboro pulled away at the end when it hit three of four free throws in the final seconds.
Patrick Petty conveted two shots from the free throw line with 46.3 seconds left in the game, and Martese Meadows missed the first of his two attempts, but hit a second one with just seconds remaining in the game to help seal the comeback.
"We knew this was going to be a hard fought game," Maehlman said. " (Ola head coach) Curt (Miller) is one of the best coaches in the state, and we knew he was going to have them prepared."
Miller's club jumped out to a 17-9 lead at the end of the first quarter behind a balanced scoring attack.
After Jonesboro took an early 5-4 lead on a 3-point shot from Meadows, Ola took control of game thanks to stellar defense and some sloppy play and poor shot selection by the Cardinals.
Ola closed out the stanza with a 13-4 run.
Justin Gant and Tim Mason each knocked down a couple of free throw attempts in the first period as part of the Mustangs' offensive explosion.
Ola pushed the second-quarter lead to 10 points when Trae McBride hit a shot early in the period to push the lead to 19-9.
The double-digit margin didn't hold up for long. Jonesboro outscored Ola 11-7 the rest of the second quarter to cut the Mustangs' lead to 26-20.
Mario Cummings' 3-pointer kept Jonesboro in the game, and sliced Ola's lead to 23-18 at one stage of the second quarter.
After the Cardinals cut the visitor's lead to 23-20 on Quincy McDonnel's basket, McBride scored the final points of the first half with his own 3-point shot.
In the third quarter, Jonesboro began to take control of the game. Jesse Gardner, who spent most of the night on the bench in foul trouble, pushed the Cardinals back out front for the first time since early in the first period with two free throws to give the Cardinals a 32-31 lead.
By the end of the third quarter, Jonesboro led 43-38.
Each team only hit one shot from the field in the fourth quarter with the rest of the scoring come from free throws.
"When didn't execute like we wanted to tonight, but it was still a good hard fought win for us," said Maehlman. "If we can put everything together, we are going to be hard to beat.
The Cardinals ' Meadows finished the game with two 3-point shots and nine points for the game and James White added eight.
Mason tossed in 11 for Ola and McBride added 9.
Jonesboro has won six region games in a row.
Jonesboro 51, Ola 32 (girls): The Jonesboro Lady Cardinals improved their record to 10-14 overall and 7-8 in Region 4-AAAA play with a 51-32 victory against region foe Ola Friday night.
Trailing 18-17 at the end of the first half, Jonesboro opened the third period on a 9-0 run to pull away from the Lady Mustangs who appeared early on to be headed for just their third victory of the year.
Jonesboro, which led early in the first quarter before giving up the lead to Ola for most of the first half, reclaimed the lead less than a minute into the second half when Jasmine Manning converted a basket to push the Lady Cardinals out front for good.
Victoria Florence added a 3-point shot a short time later as Jonesboro increased its lead to 22-18.
By the end of the third quarter, Jonesboro built its margin to 29-21.
The Lady Cardinals outscored their guest from Ola 21-11 in the final period to claim the Region 4-AAAA victory.
Jonesboro was led by La'Kiesha Anderson's and Manning's 9 points each. La'Quinta Gallanshaw added eight points for the Lady Cardinals.
Jordan Brown finished with eight points for the Lady Mustangs.
Ola took a 7-6 lead in the first quarter on Jenia Julmiste's basket. Ola also benefited from 3-point baskets by Morgan Knowles and Brown during the first quarter, and when Julmiste scored for the second time in the period, Ola led 12-8 at the end of the first period.
The Lady Mustangs pushed the lead to 15-10 midway through the second quarter, but Jonesboro stormed back with clutch free throw shooting.
Despite hitting just one shot from the field, the Lady Cardinals kept the game close, shooting 7-of-9 from the free throw line, and cutting the Lady Mustangs' lead to one at the break.