Carrollton – James “M.J.” Walker Jr. scored 30 points and Tracy Hector Jr. added 21 as defending champion Jonesboro rolled to a 71-43 victory over Liberty County in the Class AAAA boys basketball semifinals Saturday at the University of West Georgia.
The top-ranked Cardinals (31-1) will play for the second state title in school history at 8:45 p.m. Thursday at the Macon Coliseum.
Seventh-ranked Liberty County (24-5) stayed close early and even led 19-18 at the end of the first quarter. But the Panthers had no answer for Walker, and that soon began to take its toll.
Walker had two emphatic dunks as part of a personal 7-0 run to start the second quarter, giving the Cardinals a 25-19 lead. He had 11 of Jonesboro’s 17 points in the quarter, helping his team to a 35-28 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, Walker made 3-pointers on consecutive possessions for a 41-34 lead. Liberty County never got closer.
“It’s what makes our team special, that any kid at any point can take over the game,” Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman said. “It’s not a surprise to me for [Walker] to do that. He struggled the past two games, but that just shows you the kind of character he has and the kind of kid he is, and he’s just a sophomore. For him to come out in a Final Four game, which means a lot to him, and play at such a high level, that says a lot about him.”
Walker, the team’s leading scorer at 16.8 points per game, had been held to 11 and eight points in the previous two rounds in victories against St. Pius and Johnson-Gainesville. His 30-point performance Saturday was his second-best of the season.
Hector and Austin Donaldson, who finished with 14 points, played big parts as Jonesboro blew the game open, combining for 14 second-half points. Donaldson made three free throws and a layup with less than two minutes to play, giving the Cardinals a 25-point lead.
“I feel good anywhere I go with these kids,” Maehlman said. “It’s just unreal. We wouldn’t be as good as we are without the type of kids we have, character and all that stuff.”
Tyriq Reece led Liberty County with 13 points. Devion Mitchell scored 11, and Richard LeCounte had 10.
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