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Jonesboro-Riverdale: The battle of opposing strengths

Photo by Derrick Mahone 
Big play from Riverdale’s Quincey January may be the difference in the Raiders’ quest to one-up Jonesboro in Region 4-AAAA, Div. B.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Big play from Riverdale’s Quincey January may be the difference in the Raiders’ quest to one-up Jonesboro in Region 4-AAAA, Div. B.

JONESBORO — The last time Riverdale and Jonesboro met was on Jan. 31 of last year, which resulted in a loss for the Raiders.

The stakes then weren’t as high as they are tonight. Riverdale is in second place in Region 4-AAAA, Div. B., just one game behind Jonesboro.

Both teams are streaking. Riverdale has won four in a row — its last two in dramatic fashion. A 64-63 win over North Clayton Saturday was rivaled in drama only by the Raiders 74-69 overtime victory Tuesday against Griffin.

Jonesboro has also won four straight. But the Cardinals have garnered their success a bit differently than their Friday night opponent.

Jonesboro’s calling card all season has been defense. The Cardinals have surrendered just 38.3 points a game in their last three contests.

Riverdale, on the other hand, has broken the 70-point mark three times in its last four games. Their 64-points-per-game average is best in the subregion.

Jonesboro (14-4, 9-1) boasts the subregion’s best scoring defense, giving up just 44 points per contest.

Something has to give.

And Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman is hoping it isn’t his defense.

“The biggest thing we preach around here is defense,” Maehlman said. “Team defense. Doing the little things to make it hard for the other team to score.”

Ask Mount Zion’s J.R. Holder about that Cardinals defense. Jonesboro held the high scoring Jacksonville University signee to a season-low 12 points in Saturday’s 44-39 victory.

And though, at times, it wasn’t pretty, no one can argue that it wasn’t effective.

“We just sent guys after him,” Maehlman said. “Anytime we play a Division I type of kid, we always preach being physical and getting them to take bad shots.”

And while Riverdale may not have any noticeable Division I talent on its squad at the moment, the Raiders do have a more-than-formidable scoring threat in 6-foot-4 Quincey January.

The rangey senior has averaged almost a double-double per game, while turning in some of his best performances during the current winning streak.

January registered 33 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots in Riverdale’s 74-56 win over Spalding — a team Jonesboro only defeated by two points in a game where Maehlman pulled his entire starting five.

Which, by the way, gave the Cardinals an opportunity to find new scoring threats like sophomore guard DeAnte Mack.

After just averaging a little over six points a game during the first half of the season, Mack exploded, sandwiching a seven point effort last Friday against North Clayton with 21 and 19 points in last week’s wins against Spalding and Mount Zion respectively.

Mack’s emergence gives an already dangerous backcourt of Patrick Petty and Cameron Sutton even more firepower.

But remember, prolific scoring isn’t what Maehlman believes will give his team the best chance to win games.

“It’s hard to play the way we play with the intensity we ask for out of our kids on defense,” Maehlman said. “But we believe each game, if we execute on defense more times than not, we’ll be fine.”