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Confident Forest Park seeks to break rare slump

Photo by Derrick Mahone Forest Park guard Ashlee Cole said she is convinced that her team can return to the Class AAAA finals if it puts in the work in practice. The Lady Panthers take their 28-game Region 4-AAAA winning streak to Riverdale tonight. 

Photo by Derrick Mahone Forest Park guard Ashlee Cole said she is convinced that her team can return to the Class AAAA finals if it puts in the work in practice. The Lady Panthers take their 28-game Region 4-AAAA winning streak to Riverdale tonight. 

XXX Forest Park hasn’t lost three consecutive girls basketball games since 2009, and that’s what the Lady Panthers will try to avoid tonight in their first game of 2012.

The holidays weren’t the happiest for the Lady Panthers, who suffered their most lopsided defeat in three years last week against North Gwinnett, the No. 8-ranked team from larger Class AAAAA in the most recent PrepCountry.com/GACA Coaches’ poll.

Forest Park, ranked No. 3 in Class AAAA in that poll, followed the 72-50 loss with a 48-37 defeat at the hands of Providence Day from North Carolina. That has the Lady Panthers (8-4) in jeopardy of three in a row, if they can’t right the ship at Riverdale tonight.

The good thing for Forest Park is that it’s a Region 4-AAAA game, and the Lady Panthers haven’t lost one of those in the last 28 such outings, dating to 2010. Plus, Riverdale has had its own struggles at 3-6 overall, 2-2 in the region.

Sometime before the state tournament in March, the Lady Panthers will settle on a defense that works for them and a deep run in the postseason is a likelihood. As Forest Park guard Ashlee Cole said shortly before the break, “We should go to the finals again.”

If the Lady Panthers should do the unexpected and falter, at least three teams would seem to be ready to challenge for first place — at least according to the current standings. North Clayton and Jonesboro, who meet Friday at Jonesboro, both stand at 5-1 in 4-AAAA. Jonesboro is one of the few Clayton County teams that has been able to give Forest Park a decent game this season.

Mundy’s Mill is only a half-game behind North Clayton and Jonesboro at 4-1 in the region. Mundy’s Mill is responsible for both North Clayton’s defeats, though only one counted in the region standings. After visiting Tri-Cities on Wednesday, Mundy’s Mill will take a trip to Forest Park on Friday.

Dutchtown (9-3) is off to a 3-0 start in Regioin 3-AAAA, Division A, trying to turn back the clock to the good ol’ days when twentysomething-win seasons seemed to becoming commonplace. The Lady Bulldogs struggled to a 13-12 mark last season, and they are trying to make that the exception, not the rule. They will be in a dogfight with Alcovy (11-1), ranked No. 8 in Class AAAA, for region supremacy.

One of Dutchtown’s few defeats — and one it has already avenged with a 38-36 victory — came against Luella. The Lady Lions, who won the first meeting 65-55 on the day after Thanksgiving, are certain to have their hands full competing in Region 2-AAAAA with the likes of Stephenson, the No. 9-ranked team in the classification.

Luella’s first meeting with Stephenson hardly went well — a 54-28 defeat nearly a month ago on Dec. 6. Still, Luella finds itself a respectable 8-3 overall, 2-1 in the region.

Strong Rock Christian got off to a good start with four consecutive wins, but will try to bounce back from a lopsided 63-25 loss to Lambert. The Lady Patriots, who play Social Circle tonight at home, open their Region 9-A schedule Friday at home against Eagle’s Landing Christian.