Coach Dan Maehlman and his daughter, Hadley, celebrate with the Jonesboro boy’s basketball team after it won the Class AAAA title on Thursday night in Macon. (Special Photo: Jason Mussell)
MACON - Before his team took to the court at the Macon Coliseum on Thursday night, Jonesboro High boy’s basketball coach Dan Maehlman made one finally plea.
The veteran coach asked his young team to “play like grown men” as they embarked on the biggest high school basketball game of their career.
They would take that advice to heart as the Cardinals squad took down top-ranked Columbia 56-51 to clinch the Class AAAA title, its first Georgia High School Association championship in school history.
Maehlman said he told his team to do three things before the game — make Columbia take outside shots, block out and “play like grown men.”
He said, “I told them it doesn’t matter if you’re 14 or 15 years old, you’ve got to play like grown men and every single one of them did.”
Especially junior Tracy Hector, who led the way with a game-high 19 points and 10 rebounds.
After the final buzzer sounded, a makeshift party broke out on the court. The players hugged, cried and danced as they passed the championship trophy around. Everyone with a camera or phone snapped pictures as just about everyone on social media talked about the school’s first championship.
“This is unbelievable,” said Jonesboro forward Elijah Wade, the only senior on the squad. “It is just a blessing to win this championship.”
Jonesboro had lost in the 2004 finals to Wheeler, and was stopped twice before in the semifinals. But on Thursday, there was no denying this group of the ultimate prize. This was only the second state boy’s title in Clayton County history. North Clayton won the only other boy’s basketball title in 1993, which featured current award-winning rapper 2 Chainz.
“It’s a great feeling to make history, and school is great. I never been this happy to do it for our fans,” Jonesboro junior guard DeAntre Mack said.
Columbia (28-5) lost in the championship game for the second straight season.