Ola, Dutchtown earns first state playoff berth

`By Derrick Mahone


When the Ola boys' basketball team returns to practice today, coach Curt Miller will re-adjust the team's season goals.

At the beginning of the season, the Mustangs would have been happy at just making the state playoffs. After a 53-49 win over defending Region 4-AAAA champion Jonesboro Tuesday in the region tournament, the Mustangs now have new goals.

It is the first time in the school's four-year history, that they will participate in the state tournament.

"I'm just so proud of my guys," Miller said. "I just can't believe how proud I am of the way they played and won the game."

Miller's father, Chuck Miller, was just as proud of his son in making school history at the Mount Zion High gymnasium.

"I usually say that he is his momma's son, but tonight, I'm going to say he is my son," grinned Chuck Miller, as he leaned against the entrance to the gymnasium. "Man, I'm so proud of him."

Instead of just being happy at making the playoffs, Miller said the team is now thinking about making a deep run. Miller said he will hold off order a state tournament banner until after the Mustangs' playoff appearance.

"I want to add some things to it," he said.

The Mustangs led the majority of the game, but had to weather a late Jonesboro rally to seal the win. Jonesboro took its first lead of the game since the first quarter when Rashem Suarez hit made a layup for a 45-44 lead with 2:40 remaining.

The Cardinals would extend the lead to 47-44 when freshmen Patrick Petty made a pair of free throws with 2:15 remaining. However, the lead was short-lived as Tim Mason was fouled while making a layup. He converted the free throw to tie the game with 2:07 remaining.

After a traveling violation by Petty, Troy Swanson made a pair of free throws to give the Mustangs the lead for go at 49-47 with 1:15 remaining.

It was sort of redemption for Swanson, who missed two free throws in last season's quarterfinals, which would have given the Mustangs a state tournament bid, against Stockbridge.

"I mentioned that to Troy in the locker room after the game," Miller said.

"I was definitely nervous going to the line," Swanson said. "But I couldn't let my team down. There was a lot of pressure, but I had to do it for the team."

Ola's comeback was made a lot easier when Suarez went out with a cut above his eye trying to make a steal, but was called for fouling Swanson. Miller said not having to contend with Suarez was a key down the stretch.

"He is a heck of a player, the best in our region," Miller said.

Forest Park (girls) 41, Stockbridge 23: The Panthers rebounding from a disappointing loss in its regular season finale against Griffin to get the win and secure a berth into next week's state playoffs.

Sophomore Ashlee Cole scored a game-high 13 points for the Panthers, who lost to Griffin last Thursday in a game that cost them a shot at the regular season championship.

Panthers coach Steven Cole wasn't pleased about his team's sloppy play, but was happy to get the win.

"It wasn't the prettiest game, but we won," Cole said. "We have to make some corrections before the next game."

Forest Park committed 24 turnovers while forcing Stockbridge into 22.

"We wanted to dictate the tempo with our defense," Cole said. "In the last couple games, we wasn't able to control the tempo."

Dutchtown 60, Mount Zion 54 (boys): Kellan Holiday scored a game-high 19 points to lead the Bulldogs to their first state tournament berth in school history. Dutchtown also got 12 points from Travis May as they meet county rival Ola Thursday in the quarterfinals.