Photo by Gabriel Stovall / Jonesboro sophomore DeAnte Mack (left) and senior Patrick Petty helped fuel the ninth-ranked Cardinals in their 44-39 victory at Mount Zion.
JONESBORO – At least for now, Jonesboro is still the teacher and Mount Zion, the student as far as basketball is concerned.
Sophomore DeAnte Mack led all scorers with 19 points for No.9 Jonesboro, while the Cardinals’ suffocating defense held Mount Zion’s J.R. Holder to a season low 12 points as Jonesboro defeated Mount Zion 44-39 in Saturday’s non-region contest.
“It’s still a learning process for us,” said second year Mount Zion coach Maurice Triche. “Free throws, turnovers, missed shots. We’re still learning how to win games and establish a program. Jonesboro is already established theirs. We’re trying to learn to do the same.”
Jonesboro won its third straight game this season and its fifth straight against its upstart crosstown rival. They did it by turning in another valiant defensive effort just one day after holding North Clayton to its lowest point total in seven years.
“It’s hard to ask our guys to play back-to-back games the way we play, with the intensity we ask for on defense,” said Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman. “I’m proud of the way our guys responded.”
With guard Daniel Peace out with a back injury and guard Cameron Sutton at an official football recruiting visit at Auburn, the Cardinals frustrated Holder – a Jacksonville University signee – by throwing fresh players at him all game long.
“Any time we play D-I type kid, we always preach being physical and getting them to take bad shots,” Maehlman said.
Maehlman did it by sending out John Walker and Michael Robinson at Holder for one primary purpose.
“Those guys know that I’m asking them not to score,” Maehlman said. “I send them out there with one mission, and that is to get in Holder’s jock and don’t let him breathe.”
And it worked. Save for a couple of long jumpers and second chance shots, Holder looked as if he were regularly forcing up shots.
Meanwhile Mack led the Cardinals in scoring for the second time this week. He had 21 points in Tuesday’s win at Spalding. And Maehlman said his young sharpshooter is starting to come into his own.
“He’s a 15 year old kid who’s a good offensive player,” Maehlman said. “He’s really helped us big time while missing some guys with injuries and other things. At the beginning of the year he was acting like a typical 15 year old. Now he’s grown up.”
To be sure, the game was no cake walk. Jonesboro used a Patrick Petty three pointer and a Petty-to-Duby Okeke alley oop as it raced out to a 13-4 lead in the first quarter.
Mount Zion slowly began whittling away at the deficit, when Holder sank a three pointer from the right corner at the second quarter’s buzzer. Jonesboro still led 20-19, but the Bulldogs seemed to carry some momentum into halftime.
The two teams traded blows in the third quarter. Jonesboro would go up by two or three and Mount Zion would cut it to one, but could never get over the hump to grab a lead.
With Jonesboro nursing a 39-36 lead with under three minutes left in the game, Mount Zion had a golden opportunity to tie the ball game. It happened when Surmon Neal was fouled while shooting a three pointer.
But Neal missed two of his three free throws, allowing Jonesboro to keep a two point edge. Petty and Casey Wells each sank a pair of free throws after that to secure the win.
The win raised Jonesboro’s record to 13-4, while Mount Zion fell to 11-4. The Bulldogs will get their chance at revenge when the two teams meet again February 2 at Jonesboro.
Despite the loss, Maehlman said the Bulldogs are an impressive team that should make a lot opponents nervous this season.
“I’ve never seen a bigger team over here since I’ve been in Clayton County,” he said. “Their huge. Coach Triche is doing a great job and he’s got these guys heading in the right direction. They have a chance to put something together special in their region.”