Photo by Heather Middleton
By Derrick Mahone
By the end of the first quarter Friday at Mount Zion High, Ashlee Cole had already put in a full game's work as fourth-ranked Forest Park was on its way to keeping its 11-game winning streak in place with an easy win over the Lady Bulldogs in a Region 4-AAAA game.
Cole finished the game with 22 points, 20 in the opening quarter as the Lady Panthers cruised to a 71-29 win and remained a win away from clinching the regular season region title.
A little over a minute into the contest, Forest Park jumped to a 12-0 lead before Mount Zion called a timeout with 6:19 remaining, but the damage had already been done.
The Bulldogs were never able to recover as they committed 39 turnovers on the game. All 12 Forest Park players that played scored at least one point in the contest.
"The last four games we have really been clicking," Lady Panthers coach Steven Cole said. "Everybody is now understanding their roles on this team. I think we are peaking at the right time."
Forest Park's tenacious defense gave the Lady Bulldogs problem's all night. Several times Mount Zion was unable to advance the ball past halfcourt because of the pressuring defense.
The Lady Bulldogs didn't get their first field goal until reserve Vivian McDougald hit a layup with 43 seconds remaining in the opening half as Forest took a 29-2 lead. Tynesha Parks was Mount Zion's first starter to score when she hit a 3-pointer with 2:09 remaining in the second quarter as the Lady Bulldogs' trailed 39-12.
"We were real focused out there," said Forest Park forward Cydni Bivins, who came off the bench to score seven points. Keyonna Allen was the only other Forest Park player in double figures with 10 points.
"As the region tournament approaches, we are trying to come into every game focused," Allen said. "Winning region is our first step towards our goal of trying to reach the final four again."
Forest Park can clinch the top seed in the upcoming region tournament Tuesday with a win at second-place North Clayton. The Lady Panthers won the earlier contest 70-29 at home.
During the Forest Park's 11-game winning streak, it has only allowed three opponents to score at least 30 points. The Panthers are only allowing an average of 36 points on the season.
The win improves the Lady Panthers to 18-5 overall and 16-0 in the region as Mount Zion dropped to 5-16 and 4-11. The Lady Bulldogs were on a two-game winning streak entering the week, but lost to Mundy's Mill on Tuesday. Prior to its mini winning streak, Mount Zion had dropped three straight.
"We have been progressing throughout the year," Mount Zion coach Rodricus Ficklin said. "We are looking to make a run in the region tournament. Right now, we are playing for positioning in the region tournament."
Mount Zion struggled offensively as it had trouble with the Lady Panthers' fullcourt pressure defense. The second quarter was the only time that Mount Zion got into double figures scoring.
Forest Park closed the game on a 6-0 run.
"I was really excited about playing this game," Ashlee Cole said. "It is getting close to region tournament time and your are supposed to be pumped up about that. We played real good on the defensive end. I think we are peaking at the right time."