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Jonesboro girls teams look to get defensive

Photo by Derrick Mahone 
Jonesboro center and Jacksonville University signee Kimberly Dawkins has helped power the Lady Cardinals to a 10-game winning streak.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Jonesboro center and Jacksonville University signee Kimberly Dawkins has helped power the Lady Cardinals to a 10-game winning streak.

JONESBORO — Ah, the pressures of coaching a contender.

Your “big three” returning from a 25-6, semifinal appearance last season. Two Division I caliber ballers on your roster.

A school full of students, fans and parents anticipating a repeat performance, and then some.

Now, you’re coach Lamar Harris. You walk into this den of expectancy with the pressure of delivering in your first year on the job.

How do you please all of these people?

According to Harris, you don’t.

“This team, we’re a family,” Harris said. “I coach for them. Nobody else.”

One would think it shouldn’t be hard to walk into a ready-made winning situation. Just come in, plop down in the best seat in the house and watch the girls go to work, right?

Not exactly how it happens — at least if you coach like Harris.

“I’m not exactly sure how they had things before I came,” Harris said. “But every coach is different. I think we struggled a bit in the beginning. New coach, new philosophy, a new style. For our veteran seniors who have had one system for three years, it may have been a little tough at first. But we’re starting to catch on.”

Obviously.

Jonesboro, after splitting its first six games, have ripped off 12 straight wins. A pair of 30-plus point blowouts against Mount Zion and Upson-Lee this past week — each team being held to less than 40 points — is proof that Harris’ bunch is starting to catch stride.

The Lady Cardinals surrender just 41 points a game. That’s tops in Region 4-AAAA, Div. B. And it is exactly where Harris envisioned Jonesboro to be at this point in the season.

“I was looking at midseason for us to be full throttle,” Harris said. “We’re about 80 percent of the way there. I focus on the defensive end of the floor. The team that scores the most easy buckets will win.”

The Cardinals opponent tonight is no slouch defensively either. Riverdale is second in the region in scoring defense, and with a 6-3 region record, sits atop the region despite being 9-10 overall.

Lady Raiders coach Jacquesa Smith’s bunch has shown improvement in her first year on the sidelines. With six games remaining, Riverdale has already eclipsed its 2011-12 win total of eight. But Smith said she’s looking for more.

“We can still make some noise in the region,” said Smith after her team’s 52-42 setback against Griffin Tuesday. “We’ve just got to be consistent and ready to play every night.”

In addition to Riverdale’s defensive prowess, Smith will be looking to a pair of 6-foot-1 post players — junior Keimairra Haylock and senior Seqoia Nelson to challenge Lady Cardinals center Kimberly Dawkins down low and clean up the class.

“One thing we’ll do, our team will rebound,” said Smith whose team is looking to bounce back from a two-game skid. “Turnovers, easy layups. We can’t keep giving up those kinds of things.”