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Jonesboro looks to return to contender role

Photo by Derrick Mahone
Jonesboro coach Michael House says the Lady Cardinals should be much improved this upcoming season with its entire starting lineup and reserves back.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Jonesboro coach Michael House says the Lady Cardinals should be much improved this upcoming season with its entire starting lineup and reserves back.

By Derrick Mahone

dmahone@news-daily.com

Three years ago, Michael House walked into the Jonesboro gym as the new head girls' basketball coach, and nearly turned around and walked back out.

The Lady Cardinals coach didn't like what he was seeing. House was greeted by only seven players after graduation took its toll on a team that had reached the Class AAAA semifinals the previous season.

"I started shaking my head, and wondering what I had gotten myself into," House grinned.

But back then, it was no laughing matter. The Cardinals graduated several key starters, but fan expectation was high after making a strong playoff run during the 2008-09 season.

The last two seasons, Jonesboro has struggled as it has gone through a transition period with several younger players playing major roles. Jonesboro didn't have any seniors on last season's team.

Jonesboro hasn't reached the state playoff the last two seasons.

But House and the team believe they are ready to turn the corner.

"We have really gotten better in the low post," Lady Cardinals junior point guard Victoria Florence said. "They understand the game."

Junior guard Briana Benson agreed.

"We should be a lot better, especially in the post," said Benson, who led the Lady Cardinals with a 14.3 per gram scoring average and 6.2 rebounds per contest. "The biggest difference is that every body wants to play and enjoy playing. We have a lot of depth and we are playing with some intensity."

Today, the team will play its final games at Clayton State during a team camp.

For House, the biggest difference he has seen in the team since the beginning summer workouts has been dedication. The team practices about three hours each day and has played in summer league and games at camp.

"It has been like a 180 degree turn for us," said House, who was recently appointed the school's athletic director. "We have good numbers and the girls dedicating themselves to getting better. We have done some fundraisers with a lot of participation. Basically, we are doing all the intangibles."

The majority of the team was in middle school when the Lady Cardinals finished 30-2 and lost in the state semifinals, but they are aware of that playoff run. Many hope that with the return its entire lineup and substitute that Jonesboro will be able to make another run.

"We plan on playing for the region and state championships," Florence said. "We are tired of losing. I think this year's team will have a better attitude and we are determined to win."