Jonesboro hands Marion first league loss
By Chuck Livingston Sports Editor
In a game that would decide the pole position of the 6A-East nearly midway through the conference season, Jonesboro continued its dominance of that league. The Golden Hurricane visited Patriot Arena and won its 31st consecutive game in that conference, capturing an 82-68 win after leading by as many as 22 points in the process. It was Marion’s first loss since Wednesday, December 30, a 65-58 defeat to Maumelle, as well as its first conference loss of the season. “Defensively, I felt like we got out of character. I think our biggest thing tonight was that we weren’t talking a lot,” explained Marion head coach Irving Clay. “There were times where we had two guys guarding one of their players and they’re shooting an open three. I think we were also fatigued at times and we didn’t communicate that either.” Jonesboro entered the Marion game averaging 69 points per game against conference competition, good for tops in the league, and they raised that average by shooting 47 percent against Marion. “I thought tonight that we shot the ball well, though we probably didn’t defend like I’d like a Jonesboro team to do so,” said Jonesboro head coach Wes Swift. “Marion gets a lot of credit for that, they’re super athletic and pushed the ball. Our transition defense and help defense wasn’t where it needed to be, but give Marion a lot of credit for that.” The game opened up as a high-octane shootout from the opening tip. Jonesboro led 21-19 after a first quarter in which each team played in the open court and took advantage of a number of opportunities at and around the basket. Perhaps the key moment of the game came early in the second quarter with Jonesboro ahead 23-19 when Golden Hurricane guard Marquis Eaton came up with a steal at midcourt and took off for the basket in a bid to give his team a six-point lead. Eaton was met at the rim by Marion guard LeAunte Johnson, who took a personal foul and was assessed a technical foul, as well. Eaton sank all four free throws, which was just the break that Jonesboro needed. Those charities sparked a 12-0 Jonesboro run that gave them a 32-19 lead and would rest at 42-30 at halftime. “I don’t know exactly what happened on that play when Marquis was going up for the dunk,” Swift admitted. “But to his credit, he sank all four free throws.” “We want hard fouls, but there was no need to talk like that,” Clay said. “I felt like there should have been double fouls, because their guard said something, as well, but we should have never initiated that. We have to be smarter than that in the moment.” However, Marion wasn’t done. Following a Shaun Doss lay-up, the Pats had crept within 10 points at 48-38 with 5:33 left in the third quarter. Doss led all players with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Following the Doss basket, Jonesboro responded with a 13-3 run, highlighted by baskets by four different players, and the Golden Hurricane had surged back ahead 63-48 entering the fourth. Jonesboro would score the first seven points of the final frame to lead 70-48, its largest lead of the night. Jonesboro hasn’t lost a conference game since January 17, 2014 in a 61-58 loss to North Little Rock. The Golden Hurricane would wind up winning that season’s Class 6A state title before losing in last year’s final to Pine Bluff. Jonesboro has appeared in four consecutive Class 6A finals. Jonesboro (15-2 overall, 6-0 7A/6A-East, 2-0 against 6A-East) got 16 points from Ben Harvey, 14 from Eaton and 13 from Desi Sills. Marion (9-8 overall, 4-2 7A/6A-East, 1-1 against 6A-East) got a big night from Doss, while Marlon Warren hit for 15 points, A.J. Latham added 11 and seven from Kamari Marrs. Marion will continue its run through the 6A-East on Tuesday when they travel to play Mountain Home before returning home to host West Memphis on Friday night. The girls game will tip at approximately 6 p.m. The Mountain Home game can not be heard on KWYN 92.5, while the West Memphis game can be.