Photo by Heather Middleton
By Derrick Mahone
DULUTH -- Cydni Bivins was in familar territory, and she added like it Wednesday inside the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
Just like last season's Class AAAA semifinals, the junior guard came off the bench to provide sixth-ranked Forest Park with some spark.
This time, the momentum carried as the Lady Panthers defeated top-ranked Douglas County to earn a spot in Friday's championship game.
Last season, Bivins came off the bench to spark a brief run before the Lady Panthers were defeated by eventual champion Southwest DeKalb.
Bivins hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the third quarter to spark a Forest Park rally.
Her second 3-pointer brought the Lady Panthers to within 28-27 with about two minutes remaining.
"Cydni stepped up big with those 3s," teammate Nikki Wilson said.
"That was probably the highlight of the game. I think everybody did their part in this win." When Forest Park needed a basketball, the sixth-ranked Lady Panthers got one, and it usually came from a different player. Coach Steven Cole said the team's depth is what was the key in the victory.
"This is the best Cydni has played in the playoffs," Cole said. "We have real good depth on this team. When someone is not one, we usually have someone else to step up." Forest Park struggled at the beginning of the game as it had scoring slumps. Cole tried an assortment of lineups to help jolt the offense. However, it wasn't until Bivins consecutive 3-pointers that got the Lady Panthers going against the previously unbeaten Douglas County squad.
"I was trying to find the right mixture of players,"number Cole said. "I was trying to find someone to make it happen."
That someone was Bivins, who finished with nine points. "I had to get the team up," Bivins said. "I didn';t want to go home, so I had to play hard. This was a game when nothing was falling. We couldn't hit anything. I'm glad we were able to get a spark."
After hitting the first 3-pointer, Bivins said she felt confident about the other one. "When I hit the first one, I can usually make another," she said. "I just didn't know I was going to hit them back-to-back."
But her teammates are happy about it.
The Lady Panthers will take on Fayette County Friday at 3 p.m. for a chance to win their first state title since 1970, when they won the Class AAA title. That title was in the state's largest classification at the time.
Fayette County defeated Chattahoochee in the second semifinals game Wednesday. "We always tell our players to be ready when their number is called," Cole said. "Cydni was ready in this game." And it showed.