By Doug Gorman
The Forest Park Panthers might want to consider changing their name to the Comeback Kids.
It would be appropriate after what the team pulled off Saturday night in the second-round of the Chargers' Hooptacular at Eagle's Landing Christian Academy.
Trailing 27-9 at the end of the first half, the Panthers went on a second-half comeback and eventually overtook Riverwood 48-46 to advance to the finals of the holiday tournament.
Forest Park faces Eastside in an 8:30 p.m. tip off Monday in the championship.
"I told our guys at halftime that 18 points wasn't a huge lead to overcome if we just kept fighting," Forest Park head coach Steven Cole said. "We are young, but our team plays hard and it showed."
Forest Park cut the Riverwood lead to 10 points at the end of the third quarter and only trailed 37-27 heading into the final eight minutes.
The Panthers used tough defense in the second half, limiting the Raiders to just three field goals in the second half, including one in the final period.
It contributed to the Panthers' comeback.
Long-range shooting helped too.
With 3:14 remaining in the third quarter, Maslikki Priester stepped up and hit a 3-point shot to cut the Riverwood lead to 33-21.
Lamont Jackson and Brandon McCarter drained some big baskets of their own in the third quarter to keep the Panthers with in striking distances
But it was Jackson's shooting touch in the fourth quarter that helped spark the Panthers' comeback.
The senior drained two treys in the final eight minutes. His second 3-point shot late in the game tied the game at 46-all.
Seconds early Austin Smith also converted his second of two 3-point shots to help the Panthers close the gap.
McCarden then put the exclamation point on the comeback, hitting a free throw with two seconds left to give the Panthers a 47-46 lead.
Jackson led Forest Park with 14 points. Priester added 10.
Adam Johnson paced Riverwood with 9.
With the win, the Panthers improved their record to 4-6.
"It would be great if we could win this tournament," Cole said. "It would mean a lot to our seniors and set the stage for the rest of the season. It would be big going into the rest of the year. Our goal is to get back to state and we are starting to play much better."