Photo by Jerry Jackson
Jonesboro guard Cameron Sutton (No. 23) tries to guard Eagle's Landing point guard Isaiah Dennis during the matchup between the two teams Saturday. Eagle's Landing won in overtime.
JONESBORO - If ESPN had a Georgia high school basketball category for its Instant Classic lineup, Saturday’s Eagle’s Landing at Jonesboro tilt would have surely made the cut.
Golden Eagles’ guard Trevin Joseph led all scorers with 15 points, including a coast-to-coast drive and basket in the game’s final seconds, to help No. 3 Eagle’s Landing escape No. 9 Jonesboro with a 48-45 win in overtime.
It was a game that lived up to its billing as a high-profile clash between two of the top programs in the state and the Southern Crescent over the last two years.
And it was a game that Eagle’s Landing coach Clay Crump said he felt fortunate to win.
“This one’s been marked on a lot of calendars for a while,” Crump said. “It was extremely exciting for us to come out here into a hostile environment and get a good win against a well coached team. I’m proud of the way our guys fought tonight.”
In a game filled with dramatic twists and turns, including four lead changes in the fourth quarter and overtime combined, the last flurry of action in the waning moments of the extra period were downright wild.
Jonesboro’s Patrick Petty had just sank two of his team high 14 points at the free throw line after causing Eagle’s Landing guard Eric Wortham to foul out on a charging violation. The free throws gave Jonesboro a 45-42 lead with 40.6 seconds remaining in overtime.
That’s when Joseph went to work, scoring on a jumper to pull the Golden Eagles to within one point. Then, after grabbing a rebound off a missed free throw by Jonesboro’s Duby Okeke, Joseph dribbled behind his back to avoid a Cardinal defender, and weaved his way the length of the court for a layup that put Eagle’s Landing on top 46-45 with less than 10 seconds remaining.
What followed will undoubtedly be hotly debated by Jonesboro fans for weeks to come.
The Cardinals quickly inbounded the ball and advanced it to Petty who tossed up a shot that hung on the lip of the rim. Okeke went up for an apparent game winning score on a tip-in, which sent the Jonesboro bench, including coach Dan Maehlman and a few students rushing the court in celebration.
However, the shot was waved off as Okeke was called for basket interference. The clock was reset to 0.7 seconds and the Golden Eagle’s Bradley Dewberry – fouled before the inbounds play – sank one of two from the charity stripe to secure the win.
It was the third basket interference call made between the teams. Okeke was called on another basket interference violation early in the fourth quarter that credited Wortham with a bucket to pull Eagle’s Landing within a point.
Golden Eagle’s center and South Carolina signee Desmond Ringer had a dunk negated in the first quarter by the same call.
“We got a little luck to go our way at the end there,” Crump said. “There were a few bounces that didn’t go our way earlier in the game, but thankfully the last one did.”
Eagle’s Landing (11-5) got its fifth win in its last six games Saturday despite overcoming sluggish starts in the first and third quarters of Saturday’s game. Jonesboro bolted out to an early 7-0 lead after Eagle’s Landing’s first five possessions ended in four turnovers and one of Okeke’s three blocked shots.
The Cardinals forced Crump’s team into five more turnovers in its first seven possessions in the third quarter to quickly erase a 22-19 halftime deficit, but the Cardinals could never build a lead larger than five points.
Eagle’s Landing went on a 7-0 run to take a 37-35 lead with 11.1 seconds left in regulation, before Cardinals guard Cameron Sutton calmly sank two free throws to tie the game. Wortham missed on a fade away jump shot at the fourth quarter’s buzzer, sending the game into overtime.
Despite Eagle’s Landing’s considerable height and size advantage, it was Jonesboro (10-4) who Crump said “frustrated” his Golden Eagles by forcing them to play a deliberately slow paced, half court game. Frustration aside, Crump applauded Maehlman for his strategy.
“It’s what coach Maehlman should have done,” he said. “It hindered us from getting up to speed and making some lineup changes. But we were still able to get it done tonight.”
Maehlman said his team took the loss hard, but his message to them was to simply bounce back.
“A lot of my kids were crying afterward,” Maehlman said. “They felt like they were cheated in a way. But I told each of them how much I loved them and that there was no reason for them to walk out of this gym without having their heads held high. I told them to put on their Jonesboro warm-ups, smile and be proud to be a part of Jonesboro High School.”
Jonesboro will look to rebound Tuesday at Spalding before games next weekend against North Clayton and cross-town rival Mount Zion.
Eagle’s Landing will be off until it plays at Dutchtown Friday.