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Jonesboro faces big test against national power

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Derrick Mahone

dmahone@news-daily.com

Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman didn't have to go into any detailed scouting report about today's opponent Miller Grove. The Wolverines are the two-time defending champions and ranked No. 14 in the nation by one publication.

"They speak for themselves," Maehlman said. "They reload, reload and reload."

But the Cardinals coach is not ready to call off today's Class AAAA semifinals at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

"My kids will be ready to play," he said. "We will not back down from anybody."

And Miller Grove coach Sharman White is expecting a battle in the 5:30 p.m. game.

"We have had some good battles with Jonesboro," White said. "This is not a David vs. Goliath game. They are a legit team and this will be a great game."

Jonesboro has won 16 straight games while the Wolverines have only lost once this season in 31 games. Their lone lost came against Southwest DeKalb in the Region 6-AAAA championship game.

"I'm not going to take any credit away from Southwest because they played well that night," White said. "Southwest could have beaten anybody that night. Our plan was to win that game, and we didn't."

To defeat the Wolverines (30-1), Jonesboro players say they have to play a near-perfect game in unfamiliar surroundings.

"We're just expecting that we're going to have to bring our A-game," Jonesboro forward James White said. "Just listen to what coach says, listen to the gameplan and be perfect on it."

James White, an Arkansas-Little Rock signee, will draw his toughest assignment of perhaps his high school career. The Wolverines feature center Tony Parker, one of the highest recruited underclassmen in the state. He is averaging 17 points and 15 rebounds, and has over 16 double doubles.

Parker played on an international team this summer.

"He has a power game that's kind of unstoppable, but it can be stopped," James White said. "It's going to be stopped."

While Sharman White has shied away from the David vs. Goliath comparison, Jonesboro players are fully aware of what they are up against.

"We're just looking at it as a regular team," James White said. "We got here for a reason, so we can match up with them. We're looking at this game like it's David vs. Goliath. We're David, and we're going to defeat Goliath."

Jonesboro vs Miller Grove

Record, rankings, seeding: Miller Grove is 30-1, ranked No. 2 and is the second seed from Region 6-AAAA; Jonesboro is 28-3, ranked No. 5 and is the top seed from Region 4-AAAA.

Date, time, location: Today, 5:30 p.m. at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth.

Getting there: Take I-85 North to the Exit 108 (Sugarloaf Parkway). Follow West exit ramp. Merge onto Sugarloaf Parkway and follow to arena on the left.

Tournament history: Since Miller Grove started its varsity schedule in 2006, the Wolverines have gotten at least to the quarterfinals every season. Miller Grove is the two-time defending champion. Jonesboro missed the state tournament last season, but has been four of the last six seasons. The Cardinals lost to powerhouse Wheeler in the 2003 Class AAAAA championship.

Starting lineups: Miller Grove -- G Devon Provost (6-3, Sr.); G Thomas Marshall (6-0, Sr.); F Brandon Marshall (6-8, Jr.); C Tony Parker (6-9, Jr.); F Henry Brooks (6-8, Sr.). Jonesboro -- G Daniel Peace (6-0, So.), G Rasham Suarez (6-1, Sr.), G Patrick Petty (6-0, So.); F James White (6-8, Sr.); F Jordan Enadeghe (6-3, Sr.).

Scouting Miller Grove: Despite the graduation of Class AAAA player of the year Donte' Williams, the Wolverines have not missed a beat this season. The team is led by junior Tony Parker, who is averaging 17.1 points, and Henry Brooks, who is averaging 12.6 points. A highly recruited player, who should compete for the Mr. Basketball award next season, Parker has over 16 double-doubles. Brooks has offers from all the Ivy League schools and has garnered scholarship offers from a couple SEC schools lately. The Wolverines are ranked No. 14 in the nation in the latest USA Today poll.

Scouting Jonesboro: Suarez, a Georgia Southern signee and two-time region player of the year, is the team's scoring leader. During the last half of the season, White has come on strong for the Cardinals, who will ride a 16-game winning streak into the semifinals. Enadeghe is the defensive stopper and usually guards the opponent's best offensive player. Peace was inserted into the lineup when fellow sophomore Cameron Sutton sustained a knee injury during the region tournament. Both Peace and Suarez can run the point position and White has the green light to shoot from the perimeter.

How they got here: Miller Grove defeated Cedar Shoals (101-52), Sequoyah (72-53) and Villa Rica (79-54); Jonesboro defeated Greenbrier (78-36), Thomas County Central (83-51) and Hardaway (64-57).

-- Compiled by Derrick Mahone