STOVALL: Jonesboro should pass midseason test

Gabriel Stovall

Gabriel Stovall

It’s a midseason test with postseason flavor.

The first true test since the last true test.

Elite status. That’s the class Jonesboro basketball wants to sit in. They get their chance tonight when No. 3 Eagle’s Landing comes calling.

About that last Jonesboro test? Four-time state champion Miller Grove took the Cardinals to school to the tune of a 70-49 thumping in last year’s state semifinals. The Tony Parker-led Wolverines outmatched Jonesboro from the get go.

With seven players 6-foot-5 or taller, Miller Grove literally towered over guard-heavy Jonesboro. Cardinals center Chukedubem “Duby” Okeke, at 6-foot-8, was the tallest Jonesboro player — and the only who stood taller than 6-foot-4.

It’s fair to say the test was overwhelming.

But the good thing about tests is that if you do happen to fail one, you’ll usually get the opportunity to take it again, armed with the advantage of knowing exactly what to expect the next time around.

And this time, the test comes early.

So if the Final Four matchup with Miller Grove was Jonesboro’s final exam last season, tonight’s midseason matchup with Eagle’s Landing will serve as the midterm.

To be sure, tonight’s test won’t be an exact retake. But expect some of the same problems from the Miller Grove exam to resurface.

The ninth-ranked Cardinals will host a Golden Eagles squad that, once again, looks longer and leaner than their own.

Start with 6-foot-10 center and South Carolina signee Desmond Ringer at center. Six-foot seven forward Chris Davenport and 6-foot-5 guard Eric Wortham.

And when one of those individuals gets tired, 6-foot-8 Jordan Session and several other 6-foot-4 guys coming off the bench will keep the size coming in waves.

But size’s kryptonite in basketball has always been speed and lights-out perimeter shooting — the kind usually generated by gifted guards, of which Jonesboro has in large supply.

Patrick Petty, Cameron Sutton, Daniel Peace and Casey Wells know how to get out in the open court and they know how to create shots on the outside.

And though Okeke is just one man, at 6-foot-8 the Winthrop signee can flat out sky. Coach Dan Maehlman has called him one of the most athletic big men in Georgia.

Understand this as well: Eagle’s Landing has failed a couple of tests against Final Four caliber teams as well. Semifinal losses to Columbia in two consecutive seasons means that the Cardinals aren’t the only team with some studying to do.

Not only will Eagle’s Landing’s size have to keep up with Jonesboro’s flash, but coach Clay Crump and company will have to keep what should be a raucous home court environment for Jonesboro out of their hair.

Eagle’s Landing will surge, but Jonesboro’s done its homework and should pass this tall test with flying colors.

Gabriel Stovall covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald newspapers. He can be reached at gstovall@news-daily.com. On Twitter? Follow him @gabrielstovall1.