Photo by Derrick Mahone
Jonesboro center Duby Okeke will lead the ninth-ranked Cardinals against North Clayton tonight. It is Jonesboro’s first home game since last week’s 49-46 overtime loss to No. 3 Eagle’s Landing.
JONESBORO — If you happened to find a boxscore from Tuesday’s Jonesboro-Spalding basketball game, you probably saw at least five names you didn’t recognize.
That’s because the Jonesboro starting five of Patrick Petty, Cameron Sutton, Daniel Peace, Casey Wells and Duby Okeke had the worst seats in the house from a player’s perspective during Tuesday’s subregion game.
They were all on the bench.
The benching follows Jonesboro’s 48-45 overtime loss to No. 3 Eagle’s Landing. The game ended on a controversial basket interference call against Okeke as he attempted to tip in a missed shot by Petty.
If the call wasn’t made, Jonesboro probably wins.
But Petty won’t take the easy route in discussing why his Cardinals came up short. His finger pointing — all five of them — comes back to himself and his team.
“We really blew that game (against Eagle’s Landing) ourselves,” Petty said. “We had a couple of costly turnovers and missed some big free throws down the stretch where we could’ve put the game away before that call.”
The result? Constant free throw shooting — Petty says the Cardinals are shooting free throws now after every drill in practice — and, of course, the Tuesday night benching.
Jonesboro defeated Spalding 70-68 as DeAntre Mack led the way with 21 points with Elijah Wade and Michael Robinson chipping in 14 and 13 points, respectively.
Neither Wade or Mack can be found on last season’s roster and have been sparsely used so far this year.
Meanwhile, Petty and company were developing a new appetite while riding the pine.
“Oh, that definitely made the starting five much more hungry,” he said.
Okeke agreed with Petty, citing that the recent setback and sit down for the starters may have been a setup for greater fortune.
“Well, it was a wake up call for us,” Okeke said. “But on the positive side, it gave the rest of our teammates confidence, for them to get more minutes and perform better so that they can step in when we really need them. Especially for our seniors like Mike Robinson and Brandon Black.
“We feel we can move forward with the type of game they played.”
Petty attributed the benching to both a hangover from last Saturday’s loss, and a tendency to practice and play down to the level of their opponents.
Spalding is just 1-6 and 1-3 in the region.
“We just seem to get lackadaisical at times and we take teams for granted,” he said. “We’ve got to understand that every team can get beat on any given night, no matter who they are.”
To be sure, tonight’s tussle with Region 4-AAAA, Div. B opponent North Clayton (9-5, 6-1) should be a tougher test than Spalding. The Eagles, trying to adjust to life without former all-state performer and Georgia Tech freshman Marcus Hunt, has been streaky so far this year.
North Clayton is currently riding a three-game winning streak that was preceded by a three-game losing streak, which came after five consecutive wins during the first part of December.
Eagles guard Stafan Bradley has been picking up some of the scoring slack in what has been a largely balanced team effort thus far.
A Marcus Hunt-less North Clayton squad may not seem as threatening as last year’s quarterfinalist squad, but Petty said his Cardinals have definitely learned a lesson on focus from their last two games.
“We are not overlooking anybody anymore,” he said. “Eagle’s Landing made us hungrier. We know North Clayton is going to come out hard and we’re going to have to match their intensity.”