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Jonesboro pressure too much for Upson-Lee

Photo by Jerry Jackson
Jonesboro senior Victoria Florence guards Upson-Lee’s Demeshia Russell during first-half action in the Lady Cardinals’ 67-28 win in a Region 4-AAAA, Div. B contest on Tuesday.

Photo by Jerry Jackson Jonesboro senior Victoria Florence guards Upson-Lee’s Demeshia Russell during first-half action in the Lady Cardinals’ 67-28 win in a Region 4-AAAA, Div. B contest on Tuesday.

JONESBORO — Having played against some of the best competition in the Southeast, the Jonesboro Lady Cardinals were more than ready for the fight the Upson-Lee Lady Knights were going to put up. Battle-tested Jonesboro used its trademark full-court pressure defense, plus a new wrinkle, to wear down visiting Upson-Lee 67-28.

“We wore them down,” said Lady Cardinals coach Lamar Harris. “We finally got our heads on right and we went out there and applied a lot of pressure.”

Up 20-5 on the strength of a Victoria Florence 3-pointer with over a minute gone in the second quarter, it looked as if Jonesboro was poised to land a knockout punch. However, Upson-Lee got off the ropes and scored the next five points, mostly at the foul line thanks to being in the double bonus.

The Lady Cardinals (14-4, 5-1 in Region 4-AAAA, Division B) got their groove back and led 29-14 at halftime, but Upson-Lee (5-12, 3-6) still appeared to be hanging around. That all changed at the start of the third quarter, when Jonesboro showed off its new wrinkle — bringing Kimberly Dawkins, who normally starts, off the bench.

Harris inserted Dawkins put her at the head of his press. The long and athletic Dawkins caused the Lady Knights trouble, leading to back-to-back steals and layups by Briana Benson and Florence to make the score 35-14. Moments later, back-to-back steals led to a basket by Dawkins and a 3-pointer by Florence to put Jonesboro up 42-16.

“They didn’t have but one big,” Harris said, explaining his decision to start Dawkins only in the second half. “We have two bigs that start. Take one out. See what it looks like, just to get a different feel.”

The run eventually produced a 48-16 lead, putting the game out of doubt. Florence finished with 17 points and five steals, while Dawkins scored all 14 of her points in the third quarter. Michaelle Smith also contributed with 10 points and seven rebounds.

Demisha Russell and Kenya Harris had six points apiece for Upson-Lee.

The win was Jonesboro’s sixth in a row, with its last loss coming to Choctawhatchee (Fla.) in the championship game of the Indian Creek Shootout in Florida over the holidays. The Lady Cardinals beat Fort Walton, one of Florida’s higher-ranked teams, to make the finals.

“That competition helped us a whole lot,” Harris said. “That type of competition over the holidays is what you need to get your program ready for the big tournament at the end of the season.

“Mid-season, right now, we’re not quite where we want to be. We got just a little bit more to do.”

Jonesboro will next look to continue to improve, when it visits Riverdale on Friday.