Photo by Jerry Jackson
Riverdale senior Quincy January (No. 21) looks to score two of his game-high 17 points as Jonesboro center Duby Okeke tries to apply somke defensive pressure in the team’s Region 4-AAAA, Div. B contest on Friday.
RIVERDALE — Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman said he was proud of his team’s grit in holding off Riverdale’s late surge Friday.
But he is still trying to figure out how to get his Cardinals to play a complete game.
Patrick Petty led Jonesboro with 16 points and knocked down five clutch free throws in the game’s waning moments to help Jonesboro preserve a 54-48 win Friday in a matchup of Region 4-AAAA, Div. B’s top two teams.
Riverdale, down by as many as 17 points in the game, clawed its way back into contention by turning up the defensive intensity in the second half and capitalizing on a workman-like performance by senior Quincy January, who led all scorers with 17 points.
It was three straight January buckets, starting at the 6:03 mark in the final period, that helped Riverdale whittle down an 11 point lead to five. That’s when Riverdale guard William McClellan was credited with a basket after Jonesboro center Duby Okeke was called for goaltending.
The score sliced Jonesboro’s lead to three at 46-43 with 1:43 remaining before Petty started sinking his foul shots to ice the game. The senior guard had just one point in the first half before erupting for 10 in the third quarter.
“I talked with (Patrick) at the half and told him I understand what it’s like to be in foul trouble and lose your mojo early,” Maehlman said. “But I just told him to go out and do what you do. Go crazy and have fun out there.”
Jonesboro looked as if they’d taken all the fun out of things for Riverdale early as it sped out to a 16-4 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Cardinals’ three-quarter court press forced Riverdale into 11 first half turnovers.
The Raiders, who have broken the 70-point mark in eight games this season, were held to their lowest first quarter output all season. And things would get worse for Riverdale before they got better.
Senior small forward John Howard scored on back to back possessions, nailing a three pointer and sinking two free throws to put Jonesboro up 26-9 midway through the second quarter.
But credit Riverdale coach Tony Brinson for keeping his troops believing in a comeback.
“I kept telling them if we could cut it to 10 points we’d have a chance,” Brinson said. “Any time we get down big in double digits, 10 is the magic number. If we can get the lead to 10 or single digits we feel like we have a chance to win it.”
That finally happened when January scored on a put-back with 4:36 left in the third to draw back to within nine at 35-26. The bucket sparked a mini Riverdale run that cut Jonesboro’s lead down to 36-30 before Petty and his backcourt mate Cameron Sutton traded baskets on consecutive Cardinal possessions to push the lead back to 11.
Riverdale had an opportunity to tie the game or cut it to one after the goaltending call on Okeke, but Jonesboro point guard Daniel Peace swiped the ball from a Riverdale player, and went to the line to start the barrage of the Cardinals’ clinching free throws.
Sutton scored 12 and DeAnte Mack had 10 points to help pace the Cardinals who have now won five straight while improving to 14-4 overall and 9-1 in the region. Meanwhile, McClellan chipped in with 11 points for Riverdale.
And although Jonesboro’s defensive intensity waned a bit in the second half, according to Maehlman, the Cardinals still held Riverdale 15 points below its region leading 64 points per game clip.
That’s all well and good, Maehlman said. But he would still like to see more consistency out of his senior-led bunch.
“Who knows why we let up in the second half,” Maehlman said. “It’s hard to keep them playing for a full 32 minutes. This may be a good thing, but we haven’t played our best ball for a full 32 minutes yet. I’m proud of them either way, but we definitely want to start peaking at the right time.”
Brinson, while disappointed with the loss, said his team’s second-half come back was indicative of Riverdale’s unexpected progress this season.
“Nobody thought we’d be playing this well at this point,” Brinson said. “Now we’ve just got to put it all together. We came out and weren’t focused and weren’t ready to play hard. But we take nothing away from Jonesboro. They are a great team.”
With the loss, Riverdale falls to 12-8 overall and 8-2 in the region. The Raiders will play at struggling Spalding Tuesday. Jonesboro will travel Tuesday to play Griffin — a team Riverdale defeated 74-69 in overtime.