STOCKBRIDGE — If the last two games are any indication, Victoria Florence has hit her stride.
And so has the rest of her Jonesboro teammates.
Florence notched her second straight 20-point game — this time tallying 21 — to lead the Lady Cardinals to a 68-29 Region 4-AAAA tournament semifinals win over Griffin Friday.
The win advanced the Cardinals into Saturday’s 6 p.m. championship game against Woodland. The Lady Wolfpack defeated Jonesboro 57-50 on Dec. 4, in their only matchup of the season.
It was a satisfying moment for first-year coach Lamar Harris, but he was in no mood to absorb all of the credit for the success.
“You know, I’m kind of excited about all the coaches in this region and the progress they’ve made,” Harris said. “With the exception of Spalding, all of these coaches are new. I’ve seen a lot of improvement from every team all across the region.”
But Harris said he was specifically proud — but not surprised — of the progress of the defending region champion Lady Cards.
“This is what I expected from us,” he said. “Our coaches and staff have done an exceptional job and have shown a lot of commitment and hard work. All we really end up having to do is go out here and tell the girls to execute.”
And no one could find any fault in the way Jonesboro executed on defense.
The Lady Cardinals used aggressive, trapping full court pressure to and sharp shooting behind the three point arc to help Jonesboro race out to a 14-2 lead.
However, the last time Griffin surrendered the first 14 points to its opponent, the Lady Bears stormed back by scoring the next 20 en route to an upset win over favored Dutchtown.
But Jonesboro would make sure that there would be no let down, let alone another upset.
“We’ve played Griffin before,” Harris said. “The first game when it was closer, we were playing without (Victoria) and (Briana). The younger kids maybe were thrown into the fire a little sooner than we wanted.”
Griffin’s Shacoria Jones knocked down two free throws and Victoria Middlebrooks scored on a layup to make it 14-6 Jonesboro. But that would be the last time in the game that Griffin would be able to pull within single digits.
After Florence drained two free throws with 9.6 seconds left in the first, Benson buried a three pointer at the buzzer to grant Jonesboro a 21-6 first quarter lead.
Benson scored all 12 of her points on three pointers. And Harris got great contribution from his bench defensively, especially from freshman Victoria Sutton.
The Cardinals (23-3) have won their first two region tournament games by a combined 82 points – a sign to Harris that his girls are getting better at the right time.
“We’ve bought into the system,” Harris. “We’re unselfish with the ball, they’re finally getting confidence in the offense.”
As for Woodland, Jonesboro’s opponent, Harris said it ought to be a clash of two teams that are currently playing their best basketball of the season.
“They’ve improved and we’ve improved a lot this year,” he said. “I hope our team has the better day.”
Middlebrooks and Xandria Hosely led Griffin with seven and six points a piece.