Photo by Heather Middleton
By Derrick Mahone
DULUTH -- They needed a spark.
Forest Park coach Steven Cole was looking for somebody to provide some firepower to an otherwise struggling offensive output.
That glimmer of offensive hope came from an unlikely source - sophomore Raven Wynn. With two of the teams usual offensive sparkplugs - Kierra Dennis and Cydni Bivins - struggling, Wynn was instrumental in a comeback effort that came up short.
She came off the bench to score 12 points in 13 minutes and lead a second-half charge before the Lady Panthers lost 55-45 to Fayette County in the Class AAAA title game at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
"I just made up my mind that I had to play with a lot of heart," Wynn said. "I just had to give it my all for the team."
It was Wynn's quickness on the Lady Panthers' fullcourt press that was key in forcing Fayette County into 21 second-half turnovers. With Wynn scoring five third quarter points, Forest Park outscored the Lady Tigers 14-6 as it trailed 38-27 going into the final quarter.
Forest Park would cut the led to 45-42 with 3:29 remaining. The Lady Panthers could get no closer. All but two of Wynn's points came on free throws.
"It has been someone every game that has stepped up for us," Cole said. "Raven played well. We expect her to do a lot of us next year. She was really able to match their speed."
Wynn is the younger sister of former Mount Zion wide receiver Austin Smith, who signed a football scholarship with South Carolina State last month.
With three senior starters graduating, Wynn could earn a spot in the lineup next season. She has gotten significant playing time in the Lady Panthers last three playoff games.
In Wednesday's semifinals come-from-behind win over top-ranked Douglas County, junior Cydni Bivins ignited the Forest Park offense with consecutive 3-pointers.
This time it was Wynn's quickness, hustle and free throws that sparked a comeback effort.
"She stepped up," senior Nikki Wilson said.
"Someone had to step up, and Raven was that person," Bivins said.
During halftime, Cole told his team to play with pride and make it respectable game. The Lady Panthers nearly went a step further and nearly completed a comeback win.
"We took what coach Cole said to heart," Wynn said. "We didn't want to get blown out of here. We had to fight through to the end. Fought until the buzzer sounded."