Photo by Heather Middleton
By Derrick Mahone
It wasn't the style that Forest Park is accustomed to playing, but the sixth-ranked Lady Panthers were able to defeated McIntosh at their own game.
Forest Park prefers an up-tempo pace, but seventh-ranked McIntosh was able to control the tempo. It didn't effect the Lady Panthers that much in their 51-48 Class AAAA second round playoff win Tuesday.
"We were able to play at the slow pace," Forest Park coach Steven Cole said. "We were able to get what we wanted. Usually our defense translates into our offense, but tonight, our offense was our offense."
Junior Ashlee Cole led the Lady Panthers with 18 points and senior
Keyonna Allen had 13 points to keep their 16-game winning streak alive. Jessica Anderson added 10 points as Forest Park advances to the quarterfinals in Fort Valley for the second straight season.
Forest Park will get a rematch with No. 8 Statesboro, a 62-52 winner over Alcovy. Last season, the Lady Panthers defeated Statesboro in the quarterfinals.
This was the team's lowest offensive point production since a 51-32 loss to Nazareth of New York during the Christmas break. After that loss, the Lady Panthers (24-5) went on their current 16-game winning streak.
"It was weird playing at this pace," Forest Park senior Nikki Wilson said. "We were able to adjust. I think we are tough team and we can play in any situation."
"It was hard at first, but we did what we had to do to win," she said. "We just have to play our game."
During a third quarter run, which the Lady Panthers built a 10-point lead, Cole a big key. She scored nine points in the third quarter as the Lady Panthers took a 44-38 lead into the fourth quarter.
McIntosh (26-5) outscored Forest Park 11-7 in the fourth quarter to almost get the win. The Lady Panthers missed the front-end of three one-and-one situations and turned the ball over once to give McIntosh a chance.
With five seconds remaining, Allen fouled Gabby Seiler on a 3-point attempt with 51-48. Seiler, who scored 16 points, made missed the first shot, but made the second free throw. She purposely missed on the third attempt, but the Lady Chiefs were called for lane violation.
"I'm a little disappointed in the way we played down the stretch," Steven Cole said. "At least we have another opportunity to correct those problems in practice."
A pair of fourth-quarter 3-pointers by Lady Chiefs guard Laura Higgason kept them in the game.
"We had to keep (Higgason) off the 3-point line, because she was knocking them down," Ashlee Cole said. "That's basically what our game-plan was - to stop Gabby from dribbling everywhere and making sure she didn't get the ball to (Higgason)."
It work some, but Higgason scored 18 points on five 3-pointers. Her last one pull the Lady Chiefs to 51-48 with 20 seconds remaining.
But McIntosh ran out of time.
"It really does feel good to get back to playing at the Elite Eight," Cole said.