Photo by Derrick Mahone
Lovejoy center Justin Tuoyo (left) and point guard Jermaine Hough will lead the tenth-ranked Wildcats into their Class AAAA quarterfinals match against No. 4 Jonesboro tonight in Fort Valley.
Eighty-seven days have passed since Lovejoy defeated Jonesboro in a key Region 4-AAAA contest.
The two schools, which are separated by eight miles, will finally meet again.
This time the stakes are much higher than a region victory when the two teams make the hour and 41 minute trek to Fort Valley. The winner advances to next week’s Class AAAA semifinals.
The distance between Clayton County and Fort Valley is as large as the way Jonesboro has grown since that Jan. 6 loss.
“We are a totally different team now,” Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman said. “That was like the fourth or fifth game of the season. We have now played something like 28 or 29 games. We have grown a lot since that day.”
The Cardinals have grown into a team ranked No. 4 in the state, having won 17 of its last 18 games.
Many thought the rematch would happen in the region tournament championship game last month at Tri-Cities High. However, Lovejoy was defeated in the tournament’s semifinals after a nine-day layoff by eventual champion North Clayton.
“The beauty of this is that both teams know exactly what the other likes to do,” Lovejoy coach Rick Francis said. “The other beauty is that we are in the same region and from the same county. That speaks values about the talent in this area.”
And both squads are excited about the opportunity.
“This game is definitely different,” Lovejoy senior point guard Jermaine Hough said. “There are a lot of bigtime players in this game. There is a lot at stake.”
Both teams will use revenge as the motivation.
Jonesboro is trying to atone for the earlier season lost. Lovejoy hasn’t forgotten about Jonesboro’s win in last season’s region finals.
“We were the top teams all season in our region,” Hough said. “There is a lot of hype going into this game.”
Jonesboro and Lovejoy have evolved into a big county rivalry.
Cardinals guard Cameron Sutton is well aware that Lovejoy has gotten the best of his teams this season. Lovejoy won a much-anticipated football game last fall and the only meeting on the basketball court.
“We are looking forward to another chance to play them,” Sutton said. “We want to take care of business and get that win.”
Jonesboro vs. Lovejoy
When: Today, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fort Valley State University
Records, rankings: Jonesboro is 25-4 and ranked No. 4; Lovejoy is 24-5 and No. 10.
Last meeting: Lovejoy won 48-37 inOT in 2011.
Game notes: Lovejoy held Jonesboro to only 37 points in the only meeting this season, which was the team’s lowest point production in 83 games. In the first meeting, four Lovejoy players didn’t play because they were involved in the football playoffs. Lovejoy junior Alejandro Bennifield played last season on Jonesboro’s state semifinal team.