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Jonesboro finds groove against North Clayton

Photo by Derrick Mahone
Jonesboro teammates Patrick Petty and DeAnte Mack listen to instructions from coach Dan Maehlman during a timeout in the first half of the Cardinals’ victory on North Clayton on Friday.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Jonesboro teammates Patrick Petty and DeAnte Mack listen to instructions from coach Dan Maehlman during a timeout in the first half of the Cardinals’ victory on North Clayton on Friday.

JONESBORO — Now that’s more like it.

After last Saturday’s overtime loss to Eagle’s Landing, and after the Jonesboro starters endured a mass benching in Tuesday’s two point victory at Spalding, coach Dan Maehlman praised his team’s effort as the Cardinals routed North Clayton 49-30 Friday in a Region 4-AAAA, Div. B matchup.

“It was really good tonight,” Maehlman said. “Our normal starters played better, and some other players who hadn’t really played all year stepped up tonight and played well.”

The Cardinals were especially impressive on defense. During a 12-minute stretch of the game, starting at the 6:06 mark in the second quarter, North Clayton failed to score a single field goal.

The Eagles fought the Cardinals to an 11-11 tie at the end of the first quarter by the help of two Devin Lewis baskets inside the paint.

His first bucket of the second quarter tied the game again at 13. It would also be North Clayton’s last non-free throw basket until D’Anthony Franklin drove the lane, got fouled and converted a three point play with less than two minutes remaining in the third.

Miraculously, Jonesboro still had just a 23-19 lead at the time. But then the Cardinals went on a 10-2 run that virtually put the game away.

Cameron Sutton paced the Cardinals with a game-high 15 points. Duby Okeke chipped in eight points and three blocked shots as Jonesboro improved to 12-4 overall and 7-1 in the region.

The Cardinals’ second straight win has given them six victories in their last eight contests. Their only two losses during that set of games was to Carver High (Alabama) and No. 3 Eagle’s Landing.

And they did it without starting point guard Daniel Peace who was sidelined with a back injury.

Not much to complain about, one would think. But Maehlman said he’s looking for more than just wins and losses from his ninth-ranked Cardinals. Hence the recent shuffling of the rosters.

“We’ve been struggling to find people who will do for us what Jonesboro basketball has been built upon,” he said. “We’ve opened up practice and we’ve said we’re giving everybody the chance to compete. Whoever can show me what we want to see in practice is going to get the opportunity to play.”

Maehlman said this, despite having his entire starting five return from last season’s semifinals. He believes that last season’s success might be the source of some of the Cardinals’ chemistry problems.

“You know, you go through like we did last year, and when we lost to Miller Grove, and with everyone coming back this year, people were telling us ‘You’re going to be ranked No. 1 next season,’ and ‘Next year’s your year to win the championship,’” he said.

“I think our kids began to feel entitled. You can’t tell high school kids that kind of stuff.”

As for Friday’s game, Maehlman said the focus seemed to be there. North Clayton’s 30 points was its lowest scoring output in coach Martisse Troup’s seven year tenure as head coach.

Ellis led the Eagles with eight points in the losing effort which snapped North Clayton’s three game winning streak ahead of tonight’s home game against Riverdale.

Meanwhile, Jonesboro will travel to Mount Zion in a 5:30 p.m. game with its crosstown rival. Mount Zion (11-3), led by high-scoring Jacksonville University signee J.R. Holder, is off to its best start in over 10 years.

“We’ll definitely have to come ready to play against those guys,” Maehlman said.