Photo by Derrick Mahone
Chukedubem Okeke (left) and Patrick Petty hooked up on the biggest play of Jonesboro’s 53-50 victory over Tri-Cities in the quarterfinals Tuesday, with Petty feeding Okeke for the dunk that gave the Cardinals the lead for good.
It has been nine days since Lovejoy’s boys and Forest Park’s girls last took the court in a meaningful game — the reward for a regular season well done.
Finishing first in Region 4-AAAA automatically fast-forwarded them into their respective semifinals of the region tournament at Tri-Cities, qualifying them for the state playoffs at the same time.
Now they have to shake off whatever ring rust has accumulated in those nine days and try to win a region championship. The Lovejoy boys play North Clayton and Forest Park takes on Lovejoy’s girls.
Monday’s girls games — Lovejoy over North Clayton 59-55, Jonesboro beating Riverdale 46-37 and Mundy’s Mill’s 59-39 rout of Banneker — earned state-tournament berths for the survivors. The same holds true for Tuesday’s boys winners — North Clayton over Riverdale 61-59, Forest Park defeating Mundy’s Mill 45-40 and Jonesboro edging Tri-Cities 53-50.
With state-tournament berths settled, everybody playing today can concentrate on trying to win the region championship or earning the best possible seeding. The higher you’re seeded, the easier your path is through at least the first two rounds of the state tournament.
North Clayton’s boys defeated Lovejoy 58-49 on Jan. 10, the Wildcats’ only region defeat. That left Lovejoy tied with Jonesboro at 17-1 in the region, but because Lovejoy defeated Jonesboro in their only meeting, the Wildcats secured first place.
Lovejoy avenged the defeat against North Clayton, winning the rematch 76-74 in overtime on Feb. 7.
Forest Park’s girls, who have spent all season weathering one seemingly devastating injury after another, swept Lovejoy 52-40 on Dec. 13 and 65-41 on Jan. 14.
Mundy’s Mill and Jonesboro split their meetings, with Jonesboro winning 53-39 on Dec. 9 and Mundy’s Mill gaining revenge 42-36 on Jan. 14.
Forest Park’s boys came been oh-so-close to beating Jonesboro this season. Two losses, decided by a total of three points, setting the stage for a promising rematch today.
“It’s a rivalry,” Forest Park coach Antonio Wade said. “A lot of the kids are friends. It’s always a tough game. I guess I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
The only other way Wade could want it would be a Panther victory. Jonesboro won 55-53 on Dec. 2 and 45-44 on Jan. 20.
The losers of today’s games will play Friday for third place. The winners will play for the region championship.
In the first round of the state tournament, teams from Region 4-AAAA will play teams from Region 3-AAAA, with top seeds playing fourth seeds, and second seeds facing third seeds.
Mundy’s Mill vs. Jonesboro, 4 p.m.
Forest Park vs. Lovejoy, 7 p.m.
Jonesboro vs. Forest Park, 5:30 p.m.
Lovejoy vs. North Clayton, 8:30 p.m.