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Something to play for

By Derrick Mahone

dmahone@news-daily.com

After winning the Region 4-AAAA championship and advancing to the semifinals last season, there were high expectations for the Jonesboro girl's team this season.

Those lofty expectations might have been a little premature considering the Cardinals had to replace three starters, its top substitute and had just hired its fourth coach since the 2005 season.

The transition of a young team and new coach hasn't always gone smooth for the Cardinals this season, who are a game under .500 in the region heading into tonight's region game against North Clayton.

Jonesboro is 7-9 overall and 4-5 in the region.

But the team remains optimistic that a long postseason run is possible.

"We have not given up on this season, we will continue to go out and play hard each game," senior guard La'Quinta Gallashaw said. "Our main focus is to finish up strong. We still have a shot at making it to state."

Michael House, who was named the team's new coach just before the start of the season, said the team has stayed positive despite several losses. Last season, the Cardinals only lost twice, and only once during the regular season.

"Our mindset has been that everyday we want to get better," said House, who led Cedar Shoals to the state playoffs last season. "We are not worried about wins or losses, we are working hard to improve."

Senior forward Jasmine Manning agreed.

"All is still not lost," she said. "We still have a lot to play for."

The Cardinals are in a somewhat rebuilding year after losing starters Joi Holyfield, Drameka Griggs and Chanee Key to graduation in addition to top reserve Shamesia Smith. Holyfield signed with Presbyterian while Griggs received a scholarship from Jacksonville and Smith signed with Mercer.

House took over for Jimmy Fields before the season after he left to become the athletic director and assistant principal at Twiggs County High.

The majority of this season's team has been mostly underclassmen including three sophomores and four freshmen. Jonesboro looked as if it was turning the corner on the season with a five-game winning streak before last weekend.

The Cardinals suffered consecutive losses to Dutchtown and Griffin over the weekend.

"I still believe in this team," Gallashaw said. "We knew it would be some transition this season with a new coach and a lot of new players. As a senior, you always want to go out on top. We are going to still play hard, and leave something for the younger players to strive for next season."

Nobody in the region is ready to count Jonesboro out this season, especially with the region tournament scheduled to start next month.

"They are a good team, and I'm sure they are going to be someone you have to deal with later in the season," Dutchtown senior guard Brittney Strickland said. "You definitely can't count them out."