Photo by Derrick Mahone
Jonesboro senior point guard Daniel Peace and the Cardinals won't be intimidated by No. 3 Eagle's Landing on Saturday.
JONESBORO — Don’t take it as a sign of disrespect when Jonesboro basketball coach Dan Maehlman says tonight’s home tilt with No. 3 Eagle’s Landing is just another game.
It’s not that he doesn’t believe in the considerable skill and talent the Golden Eagle’s boast.
It’s not that Eagle’s Landing’s size — the Golden Eagle’s have four players who are 6-feet-5 inches or taller — doesn’t concern him.
He’s not indifferent to Eagle’s Landing being the highest ranked team Jonesboro has faced in state so far this season.
It’s more the fact that he’s just as equally impressed with the strengths of his own team.
“I’ve preached to my kids that this is game is just another chance to get better,” Maehlman said. “If we win, we win. If we lose, we lose. Coach Crump does a great job out there at Eagle’s Landing. He has a great group of kids. But I’m just as confident in my kids. My kids aren’t going to say we’re ‘Oh no. We’re playing a bunch of 6-foot-6 guys who are ranked third.’ We’re going to come out and play.”
If you line them up on a height chart, you might give Eagle’s Landing an advantage. But the tale of the tape in this hardwood bout is told through more than just feet and inches.
Both teams come into the contest fresh off their first subregion wins. Jonesboro (10-3) defeated Griffin 46-39 Friday, while Eagle’s Landing (10-5) defeated Locust Grove 80-38.
Both teams have been heavily tested in recent holiday tournaments against teams outside of the state of Georgia. And as far as senior guard Cameron Sutton is concerned, Jonesboro feels ready to face its top-five foe.
“We’ve already played some great teams that have prepared us for teams like Eagle’s Landing,” Sutton said. “I wouldn’t say they are the best we’ve played, but definitely one of the better teams we’ll play this year.”
And while Sutton called tonight’s clash a potential “tone setter” for the rest of Jonesboro’s season, Maehlman stopped short of predicting the Cardinals’ future by what happens tonight.
“I haven’t really put a whole lot of emphasis on this game like people in the county and state have done,” he said. “It doesn’t determine our future. We’re still not clicking on all cylinders yet. Our goal is to be clicking by February, around region tournament and state playoff time.”
Still, Maehlman does understand the type of challenge Eagle’s Landing will bring to Jonesboro tonight.
He’ll be the first to tell you that the secret to defeating the Golden Eagle’s will lie in Jonesboro’s ability to make Eagle’s Landing’s big men run the floor. And despite the decided height advantage Eagle’s Landing will have over the Cardinals, Maehlman and Sutton both believe that the battle on the boards can still tilt in their favor.
“We’re going to have to make it a 92-foot game,” he said. “First and foremost, we’re going to have to defend and block out. We’ve struggled so far this year blocking out, but we’ll have to do it against them.”
Obviously the coach’s message has reached the players.
Said Sutton: “We’re definitely going to have to defend the ball, win both ends of the ball, keep turnovers to a minimum. Boxing out. Everything counts tomorrow.”
Including the homecourt.
“I think that will definitely give us a big advantage,” Sutton said. “It’s going to be packed. Over capacity. The crowd’s going to be live and that’s going to fuel us.”