For three quarters, Jonesboro and Howard-Macon traded blows.
Then Jonesboro landed the haymaker for a 51-39 win in the Class AAAA girls quarterfinals, earning their second straight state semifinal appearance and third in five years.
The Lady Cardinals (26-4) held visiting Howard (20-8) to three points in the final seven minutes and put the game away with an 11-1 run in the fourth, sparked by seven points from leading scorer Briana Benson.
“We just had to push the ball up the floor,” said Benson, who scored a game-high 16 points. “They were running up and trying to trap, and we just passed the ball.”
Michelle Smith scored 12 points and Raven Wynn 10 for Jonesboro.
Jonesboro, which won its 18th straight game, led 22-18 at the half, and Howard pulled within a point three times in the third period, the last coming on a 3-pointer by Erica Moore with just over a minute left in the quarter.
The Lady Huskies, the second seed from Region 2-AAAA, pulled even in the opening minute of the fourth on a 3-pointer by Chasma Hart, but then the Lady Cardinals clamped down, holding Howard scoreless for nearly five minutes.
Benson scored to start the big run, then added three free-throws at the 5:36 mark to push the lead to 41-36.
Victoria Florence’s baseline drive for a reverse laup made ith 43-36, and Benson scored again before a free throw by Howard’s Moore stopped the run.
“We wanted to be aggressive,” said Jonesboro coach Lamar Harris. “We wanted to force the issue. I think we’ve got enough depth that we can play aggressive for four quarters, which is great. Our young girls come off the bench and they contribute … it gives us room to do more defensively.”
At one stretch, the Lady Cardinals forced turnovers on three straight Howard possessions, and though they were at a height disadvantage, the Lady Huskies got few if any free looks at the basket from the lane.
Moore led Howard with 11 points and VaQueshia Hall had nine.