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The rematch: Forest Park, Dutchtown battle for region championship

By Derrick Mahone

dmahone@news-daily.com

For the past 27 days, Dutchtown players have done their best to convince you that they haven't been thinking about its 74-55 loss to Forest Park.

The Bulldogs have won their last 10 games after their only Region 4-AAAA loss. That win has given Forest Park the region lead heading into tonight's rematch at Forest Park.

A win by Forest Park would give the Panthers the regular season championship and an automatic berth into the state playoffs.

"We played good team defense in that first win," Forest Park coach Steve Cole said. "Our best offense was our defense, because we generated a lot of points off our defense."

Cole is hopefully that his team can duplicate its defense pressure from that earlier game.

Since the start of the new year, Forest Park has only lost once. The Panthers were defeated 63-42 by two-time defending state champion Southwest DeKalb on Jan. 23. Forest Park's only other in-state loss was 61-45 to ranked Northwest Whitfield in the championship game of a tournament.

"We haven't been playing like we are the top team in the region lately," Cole said. "I don't know if we have gotten complacent with winning. I know we can do better."

Dutchtown coach Angela Williams is expecting a much closer game this time around.

"I think our girls will come in their with the right mindset," she said. "I think they are ready, but you never know with girls. They can wake up on the wrong side of the bed and their whole day will be bad. My hope is they are ready."

This will be Dutchtown's final regular season game while Forest Park will close the season Thursday at Griffin in a make-up game. If Forest Park defeats Dutchtown, that game would have no bearings on the region standings.

However, a Dutchtown win tonight would force the Bulldogs to root for Griffin to win to help give them the region championship.

If Dutchtown and Forest Park end in a tie, they will have a coin flip to determine the regular season champion.

"I really don't want that," Cole said of the coin flip. "I would like to win and get the championship."

In the earlier game, Dutchtown spent nearly two quarters atoning for a poor first quarter in which they saw Forest Park take a 19-7 lead. Slowly, Dutchtown crafted a comeback using a variety of defensive looks to slow the Lady Panthers.

"My biggest concern is Dutchtown is really hungry," Forest Park coach Steven Cole said. "I think they have a point to prove. They are going to come in here with a chip on their shoulder."

Both teams are coming to the game after having struggled in overtime games over the weekend.

Dutchtown won 64-63 after Abria Trice hit a pair of free throws with no time remaining in overtime while Forest Park defeated Griffin on Friday.

Williams said Trice has played well lately, especially since most teams have built their gameplan around stopping Bulldogs leading scorer Brittney Strickland. After Strickland's twin sister, Alyssa Strickland sustained a leg injury in the first Forest Park matchup, Brittney has shouldered a large part of the scoring load.

"Brittney was our biggest scoring threat," Williams said. "People started really concentrating on her, but Abria has stepped up. She has been our missing key. Teams have to now play us honest. Abria is playing with a lot of confidence."