By Derrick Mahone
As far as Jonesboro coach Michael House is concerned last month was more like the start of basketball season for his team.
Since House was hired just prior to the start of practice in October, he didn't have the luxury of taking his team through offseason drills, camps and summer league play. House came to Jonesboro in September after former coach Jimmy Fields left to become athletic director/assistant principal at Twiggs County after leading the team to Final Four.
Jonesboro struggled in the first two months of the season with a 4-7 record, but have won their first three games in January to show some hope of reaching the postseason.
"Our mindset has been that everyday we want to get better," House said. "We are not worried about wins or losses, we are working hard to improve."
The Cardinals will see how improved they are when Dutchtown pays a visit tonight for a 7 p.m. Region 4-AAAA game.
Jonesboro is in fouth place in the region while Dutchtown is second.
The winning streak comes on the heels of a five-game losing streak to end the 2009 portion of its schedule.
Dutchtown has its own issues to deal with, especially after a disappointing 19-point loss to Forest Park that cost the Bulldogs first place in the region.
"It is going to be a rebounding game for us for sure," Dutchtown coach Angela Williams said. "It is a game that will be interesting to see if if we will have the attitude that we are ready to fight for the region or we going to fold. We will see if we have the hard to ride the rest of the season out."
Williams said that Tuesday's loss to Forest Park was a carryover from a poorly played game against North Clayton a week ago. The team only practiced one day prior to the Forest Park game because inclement weather and the gym being used for school activites
Dutchtown's only other loss was to Class AAAAA Luella (63-50) before going on a seven-game winning streak. The 54 points the Bulldogs scored against Forest Park was its second-lowest point total of the season.
"I'm not making any excuses because we didn't play well against Forest Park," Williams said.
The Bulldogs will be without one of their key starters in Alyssa Strickland, an Alabama A&M signee. Strickland, a 5-foot-5 shooting guard, sustained an ankle injury in the fourth quarter of the Forest Park game.
She was expected to have an MRI this morning to find out the extent of the injury.
Aisha Atwater, a 5-foot-4 junior, will get her second start of the season. Atwater is usually the team's first reserve off the bench. Williams said the team will miss Strickland's 10-point average, but Atwater is a capable substitute.
"It is not like we were bringing someone in from another team," Williams said. "She has played with the rest of the starters a lot and has the same chemistry with them."
Although Jonesboro, the defending region champions, has struggled this season, Williams still views the Cardinals as a contender. Last year, Jonesboro reached the Class AAAA semifinals.
The Cardinals graduated three starters from the final four team, but were still expected to challenge for another region title.
"We view all our opponents as dangerous," Williams said. "We try to play the same way no matter who we are playing or what the score is. We play our game regardless."
Because of two postponements last week due to the inclement weather, Jonesboro will play four games this week.
The Cardinals won a makeup game against Ola Wednesday and will play Griffin on Saturday.
House said the extra game this week will help them come region tournament time.
"This is definitely what we need," he said. "We had light practice on Thursday. We are going to treat this like any other game. Right now, the extra games will help us get better."