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Eagle's Landing denies Jonesboro's bid for second straight region crown

Photo by Jason Mussell
Eagle's Landing players and coaches display the Region 4-AAAA championship trophy after defeating Jonesboro 58-54 on Saturday at Woodland High.

Photo by Jason Mussell Eagle's Landing players and coaches display the Region 4-AAAA championship trophy after defeating Jonesboro 58-54 on Saturday at Woodland High.

STOCKBRIDGE – So this is what they do for an encore.

Jonesboro and Eagle’s Landing played out another epic battle in front of another packed house that took another extra period in order to decide a winner.

Eagle’s Landing senior Trevin Joseph tallied a game-best 18 points to push the Golden Eagles to a 58-54 overtime win against Jonesboro in Saturday’s Region 4-AAAA championship game at Woodland High.

But it may have been a combination of passes from Joseph and Isaiah Dennis that may prove to be the play of the game for him.

After Jonesboro (21-5) point guard Daniel Peace missed the second of two free throws that could’ve given the Cardinals a two point lead with just 24 seconds left in overtime, Joseph advanced the ball the other way to Joseph who would eventually find senior guard Maurice Green all alone behind the three point line in the left corner.

Green prevented a second overtime by burying the trey with just 4.2 seconds remaining in the game to put Eagle’s Landing up 56-54. Joseph would add the insurance on a layup after a Jonesboro turnover to provide the final margin.

But for Green, it was an instance where preparation met opportunity at the perfect time.

“(The shot) felt good coming off,” Green said. “Before the start of the season my shot was not really falling that well. But the coaches helped work with me on setting my feet and keeping my elbow in. When I got the pass, I just let it fly. I’ve probably practiced that shot over 100 times.”

He only needed to hit it once, however.

That deciding bucket were the only points Green would score Saturday night. But the basket helped the Golden Eagles avenge its heartbreak from a slim loss to last year’s region 4-AAA title game to Drew.

Not to mention, pull out another squeaker against Region 4-AAAA’s defending champion Cardinals.

The last time the two schools met, Eagle’s Landing won a 48-45 thriller – also in overtime – at Jonesboro.

You could understand, then, why Eagle’s Landing coach Clay Crump had plenty of praise for Jonesboro.

“I mean you see them and you know what kind of team (Jonesboro) is,” Crump said. “Back to back final fours. They’re just a gritty bunch. They know each other very well, they know their roles. They take a lot of pride in what they do. They know how to get runs and stop runs. They’re tough.

“Oh yes, and they’re just plain good as well.”

When Jonesboro looks back at this loss, it will see plenty of missed opportunities to grasp control of the ballgame.

During one two minute stretch in the third quarter, Eagle’s Landing was stuck with a 42-41 lead. Jonesboro had three golden opportunities to snatch its first lead since having an early 4-3 advantage. The result of the three chances?

Two turnovers and a missed layup by Petty. Joseph capitalized for Eagle’s Landing by drawing a foul and sinking two free throws, followed by 6-foot-10 center Desmond Ringer’s lay in to give the Golden Eagles a 48-43 lead – its largest of the game to that point – with 4:20 left in the fourth.

Eagle’s Landing (23-5) was up 50-47 with just one minute to go before Jonesboro’s John Walker buried a three from the corner right at the 1:00 mark to tie the game at 50. On the next trip down, Chris Davenport made a move in the paint and threw down a one-handed slam that put the Golden Eagles up by two. But the basket was waved off after a charging foul was called.

Davenport fouled out of the game and Peace went to the line with 2.9 seconds with a chance to give Jonesboro the lead. He missed the second free throw, however, which sent the game into overtime tied at 51.

Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman was fully aware of his team’s missed chances. But given the level of competition, Maehlman said his Cardinals had nothing to hang their heads over.

“I told them the same thing I did after the last game (against Eagle’s Landing),” he said. “That I’m proud of them. They played hard. I wouldn’t trade my kids for any others. It just comes down to not capitalizing on some opportunities while playing what I feel is the best team in the state of Georgia.”

From the onset, there was every indication that this game would go down to the wire just as the last did. Jonesboro’s Cameron Sutton helped keep the Cardinals close in the first quarter hitting back-to-back threes within 23 seconds of each other. The second was in response to Dennis who’s three ball of his own with 4:49 left in the quarter gave Eagle’s Landing a 10-7 lead early.

Jonesboro, already with a height disadvantage against, had to play most of the first half without 6-foot-8 center Duby Okeke who had to sit after picking up two early fouls in the second half. But Howard stepped in off the bench to do an admiral job guarding Ringer, despite giving up over nine inches.

“You take out a 6-foot-8 guy and replace him with a 5-foot-10 or 6-foot guy and there’s really no drop off in how he is defending,” Maehlman said. “That’s what I mean about the heart of these kids.”

Both teams entered the game riding 13-game winning streaks. And both coaches said they feel that playing each other has prepared them well, heading into Wednesday’s state playoff action.

“Everybody was pointing to this game since the season started. Even the one earlier in the season because people knew it would be a great game,” Crump said. “I think these games definitely battle tested us and has given us momentum heading into next week. This is a tough region to win.”

Said Maehlman: “I just don’t see anybody beating (Eagle’s Landing). Playing those guys, we’ve been through a lot and I know we’re ready to go against Crisp County Wednesday.”

Eagle’s Landing will host Albany Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. Cameron Sutton led Jonesboro with 12 points in the game. Dennis had 16 and Ringer, 11 for the Golden Eagles.