Class AAAAA blog: Jonesboro making its move ... Tuesday’s top games

The loss of seven seniors – four of them starters – has slowed the Jonesboro basketball team this season. But such a drain of talent has not stopped the Cardinals, who have powered their way through an exceedingly difficult schedule and are on track to be among the contenders when the state tournament begins 

Jonesboro’s record is 13-8, but coach Dan Maehlman’s team is 7-1 in Region 3 and are coming off a win over then-No. 1 Fayette County. That 62-52 win over the Tigers on came on the road and avenged an earlier two-point loss to the Tigers. Jonesboro has won eight in a row. 

“We’re playing well right now,” Maehlman said. 

Jonesboro isn’t as well know throughout the classification because the Cardinals moved down a classification because of the school’s lower enrollment. Jonesboro was 23-9 last season in Class AAAAAA and lost to Langston Hughes in the state semifinals. Jonesboro won back-to-back titles in 2014-15.

Jonesboro attacked another difficult schedule with a young team this year and has grown as a result. They’ve played tournaments in Tallahassee, Fla., competed in the Tournament of Champions Showcase, hosted the Peach State Classic and played in a high-level event at Tift County. 

“Losing the eight games was tough,” Maehlman said. “I think all the teams that we’ve lost to have been ranked in their state. … It was good to get the kids out of Georgia. You get to see different brands of basketball because you don’t know what style you’re going to see in the state playoffs. And it helps with the bonding … they get to hang out together and there aren’t as many distractions.”

The Cardinals are led by three seniors -- wing Dakota Leffew, who averages 14.7 points, point guard DuShawn Ellerbe and Bruce Martin, a 6-foot-6 stretch forward who averages 9.8 points and six rebounds. Junior guard Quinn Thomas averages 8.8 points. 

Jonesboro hosts reigning Region 3 champion Starr’s Mill (10-10, 5-3) on Tuesday at Clayton State. Jonesboro defeated the Panthers 58-55 on Dec. 11. 

In other boys games scheduled Tuesday: No. 6 Lithonia (14-7, 8-1) carries a five-game winning streak into Tuesday’s Region 5 contest against Columbia (10-7, 4-4). The Bulldogs prevailed 79-57 in their first meeting on Dec. 11 at Lithonia. Columbia coach Phil McCrary needs four more wins to reach 600 for his career. … No. 3 Southwest DeKalb (16-6, 8-1) hosts Chamblee (10-11, 4-5), a gritty team competing for the third seed in Region 5. …. In Region 2, Statesboro (18-4, 3-1) hosts Wayne County (16-4, 4-1) to determine a share of the region lead. (New Hampstead also has one region loss.) Wayne County beat Statesboro 57-44 on Jan. 8

Top girls games on Tuesday’s schedule: No. 9 Carrollton hosts Rome in a game that could help determine the No. 2 seed in the Region 7 playoffs. Carrollton (15-6, 10-2) defeated Rome (13-7, 8-3) by 12 points when they met for the first time on Dec. 12. Both teams are chasing No. 2-ranked Villa Rica. … In Region 2, No. 4 Statesboro (21-1, 5-0) will host Wayne County (16-3, 4-2). Statesboro has won five straight, among them an eight-point win over Wayne County on Jan. 8. 

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