Photo by Jerry Jackson
Jonesboro center Kim Dawkins, who had four points, made most of her contributions on defense, blocking at least seven shots and starting fast breaks that led to easy baskets for teammates.
Woodland kept issuing challenge after challenge to Jonesboro center Kim Dawkins. She kept rising to meet it with an outstretched hand.
“It was my idea to play good defense,” she said, “and if I played great defense we could get two easy points.”
Coach Michael House couldn’t have diagrammed Jonesboro’s 59-38 victory in the first round of the Class AAAA tournament any more simply than Dawkins explained it.
“She shut down their bigs,” House said. “Oh, my God, I don’t know how many blocks she had — it had to be seven or eight. She’s Miss Faithful when it comes to defense and shot-blocking. She’s big time, a big-time player.”
The Region 4-AAAA champion Lady Cardinals (23-5) assumed control of the game in the third quarter, when the Lady Wolfpack (21-10) found simply getting the ball into the front court an arduous task. And when they finally did get it past mid-court, the 6-foot-1 Dawkins was on patrol.
Teammate Ashley Hand benefitted with seven third-quarter points off fast breaks started by steals or swatted balls. A five-point halftime lead ballooned to 15 going into the fourth, when it only got worse for Woodland.
“Ashley has stepped up her play — that was her best game of the season,” House said. “Her ability to finish, stop and pop helped. When she gets the ball in her hands, she’s explosive.”
Hand finished with a team-high 17 points, while Victoria Florence added 11. Birthday girl Briana Benson had eight points as the Lady Cardinals, ranked No. 2 in the state by prepcountry.com, advanced to a second-round home game next Tuesday against No. 3-ranked Statesboro (27-1), which won its 16th in a row by defeating Lee County 72-62.
Woodland kept it close early, led by Jasmine Strozier and Lindsey Reed, who led the Lady Wolfpack with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Jonesboro led 14-12 after one quarter, but the Lady Wolfpack rallied to claim their last lead at 20-19, before Jonesboro ended the half on six straight points, with Amoni Walker’s shot at the buzzer giving the Lady Cardinals a 25-20 halftime advantage.
House was concerned early that the Lady Cardinals lacked intensity.
“There was a lot of pressure with it being our first time in the state,” House said. “This is still a young ballclub. A lot of times on the floor, there’s one freshman, three juniors and one senior. We do have a young makeup. We had a difficult time orchestrating some offense.”
Getting 20 points in the third quarter relieved some of that pressure.
“We’re going to take all those offensive sets, throw them out the window and play 94 feet of defense,” House said. “That’s our game plan.”
And, the Lady Cardinals hope, that will take them as far as they can go. Winning the first one has only made them hungrier.
“I want more,” Dawkins said.