Photo by Heather Middleton
By Derrick Mahone
During its current 10-game winning streak, Forest Park girls have won by an average of 30 points per game.
But coach Steven Cole is quick to point out that several teams has played his sixth-ranked Lady Panthers a lot closer in the second meeting.
As an example, Mundy's Mill lost by 28 points in the team's first meeting, but closed the gap to 12 the second time they faced off.
Cole expects a much tougher showing from North Clayton in the team's second meeting today.
"Team are a little more prepared for us the second time because they are making the adjustments," Cole said. "We definitely have to be on top of our game."
A win today could clinch the Region 4-AAAA regular season championship and give the Lady Panthers a state tournament berth.
The top team in the regular season automatically gets placed in one of the region tournament's semifinals game, which guarantees a spot in the state tournament.
North Clayton needs a win to keep its chances alive to grab the top spot. For the Lady Eagles to remain in the hunt, they will need to defeat Forest Park and as the same of Mount Zion on Friday, while they win their remaining three region games.
"We can't sleep on North Clayton, because they are a good team," Forest Park guard Cydni Bivins said. "We have to come play every night."
Forest Park will again have to try to contain Eagles center Miranda Cantrell, who has been averaging over 20 points this season. Lady Panthers senior Keyonna Allen and Nikki Wilson have been steady in the paint this season.
"We are treating this just like its another region game," said Allen, who signed a basketball scholarship with Presbyterian College last November. "We definitely won't take them too lightly."
In the boys' game, North Clayton has won seven of its last nine games since the new year. The Eagles (14-7 overall and 10-5 in region) are coming off a 63-51 loss at No. 3 Lovejoy over the weekend.
In an earlier meeting, North Clayton defeated Forest Park 42-40 in overtime. Since that loss, the Panthers have won three of their last five games, including a win over Lovejoy last Wednesday.
The Panthers (10-12 and 6-10) will try to contain North Clayton's leading scorer Marcus Hunt.
Forest Park coach Antonio Wade was pleased with his team's second-half effort in their come-from-behind win at Mount Zion on Friday.
It was two days after the upset win over Lovejoy.
"We were sort of still stuck on that Lovejoy win in the first half," Wade said. "We turned up the defensive intensity in the game."