Jonesboro freshman James Walker scored 24 points in the Cardinals’ 62-45 win over visiting Worth County on Tuesday in the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
JONESBORO - It was midway through the fourth quarter, and Jonesboro seemed very much in control of its second round Class AAAA playoff game against visiting Worth County.
Consecutive dunks by Jonesboro freshman sensation James “MJ” Walker pretty much sealed the win with a little over four minutes to play.
By then, the Cardinals guards had full control of the game with its fullcourt defense causes several turnovers.
Walker would pump in a game-high 24 points to lead the Region 4-AAAA champions into Thursday’s quarterfinals round.
“I just give a lot of credit to my teammates for putting me in that position,” Walker said. “They just kept feeding me the ball. Those two dunks really pumped up the crowd, and got us going.”
The Cardinals (23-6) lead by five at the intermission, but was able to stretch the lead to 10 points most of the third quarter.
However, Worth County would make a run and close the gap to 37-30 midway through the third.
And that’s when Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman would called a timeout, but he didn’t say much.
“It was mostly our players telling each other that we had to settle down and play with some composure,” Maehlman said. “How many high school teams that you know talk about composure. We are a young team, but these guys understand that we have to play under control to give ourselves a chance to win.”
After regaining its composure, Jonesboro went on a 14-4 run to close out the third quarter.
From there, Worth was never able to get back into the game.
“We had to pick up our intensity in the second half,” said Jonesboro guard DeAntre Mack, who finished with 10 points. “We were determined not to let them back into the game. We had to play really good defense.”
Jonesboro center Tracy Hector finished with nine points and nine rebounds.
“We knew from looking at film that they were an athletic group,” Maehlman said. “We felt like we had to put pressure on them. Our defense and conditioning were the key in this win. I thought we were pretty successful with our pressure defense.”