By Chuck Livingston Sports Editor
JONESBORO — Already locked into the No. 3 seed for the Class 6A state tournament this week, the Marion Lady Patriots had one, final opportunity to come up with a key win on the road. However, for the third time this season, Jonesboro was able to hold Marion off, winning on Friday night 48-45 at Don Riggs Hurricane Gymnasium. Jonesboro led by as many as 12 points in the game, including at the end of the third quarter, but Marion fought back. The Lady Pats got within three points on a Kennedi Boykins three-pointer with 1:17 left in regulation. Boykins’ bonus jumper made the score 46-43. That score held as Jonesboro missed the front-end of a pair of one-and-one opportunities with less than 53 seconds left in the game. Despite those misses, Marion could not take advantage and Jonesboro’s Shanei Sloan finally hit a pair of free throws with 23 seconds left to give the Golden Hurricane some breathing room. For the first three quarters, it didn’t appear as though Jonesboro would need any late heroics to drop Marion. The Lady Golden Hurricane forced 14 Marion turnovers before the fourth frame and led 39-27, while the Lady Pats had connected on just 13 of 31 field goals. Jonesboro claimed its first double-digit lead with 6:30 in the third quarter on a Starr Taylor floater. However, Marion took much better care of the ball in the fourth and turned Jonesboro over four times to aid the rally. “A lot of that (big lead) had to do with our press,” explained Jonesboro head coach Jodi Cristenberry. “We pulled out in the fourth quarter because I got worried about fatigue and they kept getting lobs down there and getting easy buckets with their bigs. We probably shouldn’t have done that. I probably should have just cycled some more people in.” Still trailing by 12 points with 4:47 left, Marion hit Jonesboro with a late 11-2 run to get within 46-43. That stretch was highlighted by seven consecutive points from Boykins, a three-year starter for Marion at the point guard. Interestingly, the teams each shot 18 of 46 from the field, a mark of 39 percent, respectively. Marion won the rebounding battle 30-25 and Jonesboro forced one more turnover at 14-13. Jonesboro was 3 of 17 from three-point range for the game, after hitting eight of 20 in a win in January at Patriot Arena. Marion (9-18 overall, 2-12 7A/6A-East) will be the No. 3 seed in the Class 6A state tournament in Russellville this week. The Lady Pats were led by Boykins’ 17 points, eight from Ebony Day and five from Jakyya Clay. Tei Boston led all players with 10 rebounds. Jonesboro (17-12 overall, 7-7 7A/6A-East) locked down the No. 1 seed in the Class 6A state tournament, and the first-round bye that accompanies it. The Lady Golden Hurricane got 20 points to lead all scorers and seven apiece from Matte Curtis and Amber Hatchett. State tournament notes: Marion will begin its run at the state tournament on Wednesday at 1 p.m. against the Benton Lady Panthers. Marion played Benton in last season’s first-round game in Siloam Springs. If Marion should win, they would play the No. 1 seed from the central, Russellville, on Thursday at 4 p.m.