Photo by Jerry Jackson
Riverdale’s Justin Bridges passes against defensive pressure applied by North Clayton’s Dennis Johnson. North Clayton pulled it out at the end 61-59, led by Marcus Hunt’s 27 points.
Jonesboro doesn’t design plays for Chukedubem Okeke, and he’s not the guy the Cardinals look for on offense. But there he was Tuesday, 6 feet 8 and standing under the basket in the waning seconds of a Region 4-AAAA Tournament game that meant the difference between season over and state-tournament berth.
What do you do?
Just what Patrick Petty did — get him the ball. And for as maddeningly raw as the junior big man may be, he knew what time it was — time for a Duby dunk. He flushed it through with 39 seconds left, giving the Cardinals the lead and then blocked a shot on the other end of the floor, leaving Tri-Cities pretty much Duby-done in a 53-50 Jonesboro victory.
“He came up with a couple big blocks at the end,” said Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman, whose team trailed for more than 24 of the game’s 32 minutes.
The Bulldogs were considered the road team because of their lower seeding (eighth), but were playing in their own gym because it was the tournament site. That made things a little harder on the second-seeded Cardinals (22-3).
“I don’t think it was so much that we played bad as that they had a great game plan,” Maehlman said. “They wanted to make the state playoffs. I knew this was going to happen in their gym, that they were going to be geeked up. They took us out of the majority of the things we wanted to do.”
Casey Wells led the Cardinals with 14 points.
With state-tournament berths all sewn up, Tuesday’s three survivors — North Clayton, Forest Park and Jonesboro — now turn their attention to winning a region championship or earning the best possible seed for the state tournament.
When the tournament resumes Thursday, North Clayton will play Lovejoy, which had a bye into the semifinals, and Forest Park will meet Jonesboro.
Here’s how the others reached the semis:
North Clayton 61, Riverdale 59: Marcus Hunt scored 27 points — breaking the 2,000-point milestone for his star-studded high school career — and helped the Eagles rally from a late seven-point deficit.
“Marcus stepped up big-time,” North Clayton coach Martisse Troup said. “They all did, but Marcus really stepped up. Big-time players make big-time plays.”
Hunt, a Georgia Tech signee, now has 2,001 career points.
Devin Lewis added 11 points for North Clayton (15-10), which split its regular-season meetings with Lovejoy (21-4).
Sateri Powell had 23 points to lead Riverdale (13-13), which led 18-11 after one quarter and 28-27 at halftime. The Raiders trailed by three entering an offensive slugfest of a fourth quarter, but surged ahead midway through the period.
“I knew it was going to be a rough game,” Troup said.
Forest Park 45, Mundy’s Mill 40: Darius Carmichael scored 12 points, Costa Anderson added 11 and Lemuel Fuller 10 as the Panthers survived a late Tigers rally and earned a state-tournament berth for the first time in Antonio Wade’s three years as coach.
“We’re excited, but not satisfied,” Wade said.
The Panthers (16-9) led 36-23 early in the fourth quarter before the Tigers closed to within 38-34. Wade tried to get his team to slow things down, but it took a while to sink in.
“We were rushing, not playing smart because it’s in our head to go, go, go,” Wade said.
Rashad Crawford led Mundy’s Mill (11-17) with 11 points.