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Jonesboro takes on defending state champs

Photo by Derrick Mahone
Jonesboro will need big games from juniors Kimberly Dawkins (left) and Briana Benson today when the second-ranked Lady Cardinals take on top-ranked and defending state championship Fayette County in the state quarterfinals in Fort Valley.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Jonesboro will need big games from juniors Kimberly Dawkins (left) and Briana Benson today when the second-ranked Lady Cardinals take on top-ranked and defending state championship Fayette County in the state quarterfinals in Fort Valley.

When it comes to state-tournament experience, there is no doubt that Fayette County has an edge over Jonesboro.

The top-ranked Lady Tigers are the defending Class AAAA champions, and over the last three seasons have compiled a 61-15 record. Several members of the Fayette County team have been a part of a program that has an 8-1 record in the postseason during that time.

In contrast, this will be only the third state-tournament game for the majority of the Jonesboro players.

Jonesboro coach Michael House is not overly concerned about the Lady Tigers’ postseason-experience advantage.

“We went through a very competitive schedule this season,” House said. “There is a lot of excitement with our team. I think our girls are very comfortable.”

To help ease any tension or anxiety, House took extra precaution coming into the game.

The team bused to Perry on Thursday evening and spent the night at the same hotel they did during a Christmas tournament in the area.

“We wanted to make everything as familiar as possible for the team,” House said. “We wanted to get the team together and stay together. We have had a couple good practices, and they looked like they are ready.”

Both teams are coming into the 4 p.m. contest on a hot streak.

Since consecutive losses in two different Christmas tournaments, Fayette County has won 18 straight games. Only two of the team’s five losses have come against competition in Georgia.

Fayette County lost 60-54 to open the season against Class AAAAA defending champion Norcross. The team lost 38-34 in overtime to McIntosh.

“This is a great opportunity to play the defending champions,” House said.

While the Lady Cardinals may not be state-tournament battle-tested, House put together a very impressive schedule that included six state-ranked teams.

Following consecutive losses to Mundy’s Mill and Laney, Jonesboro is riding a 12-game winning streak into the quarterfinal game.

On Tuesday, the Lady Cardinals defeated No. 3 Statesboro, a team that had made consecutive quarterfinal appearances. Like Statesboro, Fayette County will enjoy a slight height advantage with three players 6 feet or taller. Jonesboro only has one player on its roster who is at least that tall.

“One thing that you have to keep in mind, you have to go through every team if you are going to play for a state title,” House said. “We have put in a lot of prep for this contest. Our girls look forward to going against quality competition. I think they have been equipped to do well because of our schedule.”

Jonesboro vs. Fayette County

When: Today, 4 p.m. Where: Fort Valley State University. Records, rankings: Fayette County is 25-5 and ranked No. 1; Jonesboro is 24-5 and ranked No. 2. Last meeting: Fayette County won 43-31 in 2009. Game notes: Both teams are region champions this season with Fayette County winning 3-AAAA and Jonesboro winning 4-AAAA. Both teams lost consecutive games before going on their current win streaks — Fayette County (18) and Jonesboro (12).