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Benson and defense key to Jonesboro's quarterfinals win

Photo by Derrick Mahone
Jonesboro senior guard Briana Benson tries to set up a play during the first half of the Lady Cardinals’ 51-39 win over Howard to advance to the Class AAAA semifinals.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Jonesboro senior guard Briana Benson tries to set up a play during the first half of the Lady Cardinals’ 51-39 win over Howard to advance to the Class AAAA semifinals.

JONESBORO — Jonesboro coach Lamar Harris emphasizes a defense first philosophy.

Apparently his concept is not falling on deaf ears when it comes to his basketball team. The Lady Cardinals displayed an aggressive defensive effort, especially in the fourth quarter, in their 51-39 win over visiting Howard in the quarterfinals of the Class AAAA playoffs on Tuesday.

Jonesboro limited Howard to only two field goals in the fourth quarter to break open a close game. Howard guard Chasma Hart hit a 3-pointer to tie the score at 36-36 with 7:13 remaining in the fourth.

But the rest of the fourth quarter belonged to Briana Benson and the Lady Cardinals. Benson scored a game-high 16 points, including seven in the fourth quarter to help break open the game.

A driving layup with 6:17 remaining gave the Lady Cardinals a 38-36 lead, which they would not relinquish.

“Coach kept telling me to get the ball,” Benson said. “We know we have to win each quarter.”

While the game stayed relatively close the first three quarters, Jonesboro’s defensive pressure was a little too much in the fourth quarter for the Huskies. Howard had 25 turnovers, 11 in the second half.

Jonesboro only had seven turnovers for the entire game.

But Harris was most pleased with his team’s fourth-quarter defensive effort.

“We pride ourselves on defense,” Harris said. “We play aggressive on defense and try to push the issue. We have enough depth on the team to play aggressive for all four quarters.”

This was Harris’ first game on the sidelines in the state playoffs. He was suspended for the first two games after getting ejected in the Region 4-AAAA championship game against Woodland.

Jonesboro has won its first three playoff games by double digits to extend its winning streak to 23 straight games heading into Saturday’s semifinals in Fort Valley. The Lady Cardinals will take on defending state champion Columbia at 7 p.m. at Fort Valley State University.

Columbia has won two of the last three Class AAA titles.

Jonesboro reached the Class AAAA semifinals last season where it lost to Southwest DeKalb.

“This is a major accomplishment to get back,” Benson said.

“We want more,” Jonesboro senior center Kimberly Dawkins said. “I want to win it all.”