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Lovejoy nips Forest Park for No. 3 seed

Photo by Jerry Jackson
Lovejoy’s Jermaine Hough looks for somebody to pass to in the consolation game against Forest Park. The Wildcats weathered a tough fourth quarter to hang on for a 48-44 victory.

Photo by Jerry Jackson Lovejoy’s Jermaine Hough looks for somebody to pass to in the consolation game against Forest Park. The Wildcats weathered a tough fourth quarter to hang on for a 48-44 victory.

Maybe the first-round bye wasn’t such a blessing after all.

Lovejoy’s boys, rewarded with nine days off as the Region 4-AAAA Tournament’s top seed, found themselves fighting to avoid getting saddled with the worst possible state tournament seeding.

The Wildcats succeeded, earning a No. 3 seed for next week’s state tournament by withstanding Forest Park 48-44 in a consolation game Friday at Tri-Cities High.

“At first, I was happy with the layoff,” Lovejoy coach Rick Francis said. “But since I’ve seen how we played, maybe it did affect us.”

The Wildcats (22-5) led by 13 at halftime, by 15 entering the fourth quarter. The cushion nearly proved insufficient as Lovejoy mustered only four points in the final period.

“Terrible,” Francis said. “Just a lack of focus.”

Ryan Watkins led Lovejoy with 10 points. Costa Anderson led all scorers with 17, including four 3-pointers, for Forest Park.

Branden Williams added 11 for the Panthers (16-11), who lost their third meeting this season against Lovejoy and settle for a No. 4 seed in the state tournament.

Despite falling short of a spot in the region-championship game, thanks to Thursday’s loss to fourth-seeded North Clayton, Francis sounded optimistic about his team’s postseason prospects.

“I feel pretty good,” he said. “Anytime you make it to state it’s an accomplishment. It would’ve been nice to be playing in the region championship and walk away with that trophy.”