Championship dreams deferred, for now...

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

There suddenly was an energized moment when the crowd of Forest Park fans at the Arena at Gwinnett Center, on Friday, came back to life, because the Lady Panthers' girls' basketball team had come back to life, too. Forcing turnover after turnover, erasing a 19-point half-time deficit, it looked at as if Forest Park might turn the dream of many excited supporters into the teams' first state championship since 1970.

But, it was not to be. The sixth-ranked Lady Panthers couldn't complete the comeback, falling 55-45 to third-ranked Fayette County in the Class AAAA championship game. Even so, the valiant effort earned the team a standing ovation after the final buzzer. "I told them this is nothing to hang your head about," said Forest Park Coach Steven Cole. "This is something to celebrate. You ended up at the top."

Meanwhile, in Macon, the Eagle's Landing Golden Eagles' first trip-ever to the Final Four came up short Friday night, as the boys' team lost to a powerful foe, defending state champion, Columbia, 72-47. The loss ended the best season-ever for Eagle's Landing, with a 26-6 record.

Despite the loss, players walked past a large group of fans after the game, receiving high fives from the supporters who made the trip from McDonough. Head Coach Clay Crump said this season's scrappy effort leads him to look forward to a bright future.

"We have been here, now, so we can't use losing as an excuse. Our seniors have provided us with a lot of heart, but we have some great players coming back," he said.

-- Brian Paglia and Doug Gorman

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