HOT SPRINGS -- Unbeaten Jonesboro lost a couple of sets Thursday against old nemesis Greenwood, but two seniors ensured that was all the Lady Hurricane would lose.
Clara Parker and Mikayla Johnson had a hand in nine of Jonesboro's 15 points in a deciding fifth set as the Lady Hurricane fought their way to a 25-17, 20-25, 25-13, 16-25, 15-8 victory over the Lady Bulldogs in the semifinals of the Class 5A state tournament at the Bank OZK Arena.
Parker finished the match with 20 kills and Johnson added 17 as Jonesboro (34-0) won its 41st consecutive match dating back to last season. The Lady Hurricane will be looking to win their 14th championship when they face Benton on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Jonesboro, which defeated the Lady Panthers in a two-set match three weeks ago, have won 51 of its past 52 overall matches. The last time Jonesboro lost was on Oct. 6, 2018, when Conway won 25-23, 25-20 in a two-setter during Conway's invitational tournament.
The Lady Hurricane had to dig deep to fend off a Lady Bulldogs' team they'd faced in seven of the past eight state tournaments, including last season's title game.
"It's always a battle, and Coach [Jennifer] Golden sets a high bar," Jonesboro Coach Craig Cummings said in reference to Greenwood's long-time coach. "Just the consistency they've had on their side of the state and what they've done in our classification for volleyball is tremendous. For us to be in there with them, it's only fitting that we have a match that goes back and forth like that."
Jonesboro captured two of the first three sets and led 13-9 in the fourth after a Johnson spike, but Greenwood (29-9) reeled off five points in succession, with junior Allison Rose finishing off the rally with a kill. The Lady Hurricane, who had dropped only four sets all season prior to the match, had three errors during that stretch and committed three more over the ensuing moments as the Lady Bulldogs pushed their lead to 19-16. Greenwood polished off the set by scoring the final six points to force a final frame.
"There were a lot of clean rallies, but there was a lot of the crazy stuff, too," Cummings said. "The ball bouncing around like a pinball, and then someone fighting to keep it in play. That goes to the heart of both teams.
"It was just a battle all the way around."
Greenwood jumped out to a quick 3-1 advantage in the fifth after a sharp kill up the middle by senior Camryn Presley. But a block by senior Maggie Beth Horn started a 6-1 rally for Jonesboro. Parker would score five of her team's next six points until Johnson capped things off with a trio of kills to win it.
"You fight and you battle so hard, and it just doesn't fall your way," Golden said. "I couldn't be any more prouder of my girls for the way they played. ... they just kept at it. Any day it could have been either one of us, but [Thursday] was just Jonesboro's day."
Presley had 17 kills while Hannah Watkins added 13 kills for Greenwood. Izzy Davis chimed in with 42 digs.
BENTON 3, PARAGOULD 0
The Lady Panthers will have a chance to win their first state title since 2009 after dominating Paragould 25-14, 25-17, 25-21.
Junior Hannah Brewer had 18 kills, including eight in a tight third set, as Benton (32-3-1) won its seventh match in a row.
Seniors Taylor Beasley and Callie McPherson each had 11 kills for Paragould (23-11-1), which made a strong push in the final set. There were eight ties in the frame, the last of which occurred when Lady Rams senior Claire Shollenbarger smashed a shot just inside the left line to make it 19-19. Paragould trailed 21-20 after a spike from senior Shea Malone, but Benton took four of the last five points to advance to the finals.
Sports on 11/01/2019
Print Headline: Jonesboro (34-0) claims a 5-set thriller