Photo by Derrick Mahone
Although Daniel Peace is only averaging 5.9 points per game, Jonesboro coach says his contribution to the team goes beyond the stat sheet.
JONESBORO — If you’re trying to find the impact that Daniel Peace has on the Jonesboro basketball team, here’s a clue —his stat lines don’t tell the story.
Points per game
Rebounds per game
Assists per game
Peace averages just under six points a game, dishes out four assists and grabs four rebounds on average each time he steps on the court.
But take him out of the lineup and Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman says you’ll lose more than just a few numbers.
“Confidence, presence, playing by example,” Maehlman said. “You take Daniel out of the game and these are things you lose. When he’s on the floor, he takes the pressure off our other guards. He wants the ball.”
In fact, the Cardinals (24-5) got the chance to find out what life without Peace was like. Midway through the season, Peace missed two games because of a nagging back injury.
Peace said he pulled a muscle in his lower back during a summer weightlifting session. During his absence, fellow senior guard Cameron Sutton handled most of the point guard duties for the Region 4-AAAA runner-up Cardinals.
Jonesboro didn’t skip much of a beat, but the Cardinals regained a bit of spring in their step when he returned.
“Cam did a good job for us while he was out,” Maehlman said. “But having Daniel in there just adds a boost of confidence to our group.”
Perhaps that’s because Peace exudes that unflappability in his own play. In Saturday’s 58-54 overtime loss to Eagle’s Landing in the region championship game, Peace missed a free throw in the waning seconds of regulation that perhaps could’ve given Jonesboro a chance to win the game.
The 6-foot senior showed his resiliency, however, by scoring the first basket in the extra frame to give Jonesboro a two-point lead.
For Maehlman, whether or not his point guard would bounce back was never in question.
“As far as him getting down on himself, he’s just not going to do that,” he said. “He understands that if we get on to him about something like missing free throws, it’s not to decrease his morale. But it’s something to make him better.
“Whether he missed the free throw or made it, we’re not even in the position to win the game without him.”
Despite his team’s attempts to encourage him after the miss, Peace said he thought about it but he didn’t dwell on it.
“Right there in the moment I was pretty down,” Peace said. “I felt I could’ve and should’ve made the free throw. But everyone was telling me that sometimes becoming a man is making mistakes and learning from them. I didn’t concentrate enough to make the free throw, I’ve learned from it.
“History will always repeat. There will be another opportunity to make a free throw in that situation.”
He might get another chance as soon as Saturday when the Cardinals travel to Statesboro in what Peace said may be the most hostile environment they will have faced all season.
And that’s just the way he likes it.
“Honestly, those are the nights I live for,” Peace said. “Ola, Fayette County, all of those places are hostile environments. But I’ve heard that Statesboro will be the cream of the crop.”
That’s because for Peace and company, nothing brings out the family aspect of being a Jonesboro Cardinal than an us-against-the-world situation.
“Crazy fans, referees, the boos,” he said. “We love the energy. We feed off the energy. We’re family. Playing (for Jonesboro) has been everything to me. They’ve been there through thick and thin. We’ve argued and fought and stayed close through everything. To know these are the same people and same brothers I’ve played with all this time, it motivates me even more to win with them.”
And that’s why Peace believes a few hundred rabid fans in a south Georgia gym shouldn’t be enough to deny them of their state championship aspirations.
“The way we push ourselves and each other in practices, everyone competes as if each game is the last one,” he said. “We’re also bonded from the sophomores to the seniors. Chemistry and hard work is what will surge us to the next level.”