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Win keeps Forest Park alone in first place

Photo by Derrick Mahone
Forest Park’s Tamara Brewster (20) chats with teammate Lisa Peace during a timeout in the fourth quarter of the eighth-ranked Lady Panthers’ win at Mundy’s Mill on Tuesday.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Forest Park’s Tamara Brewster (20) chats with teammate Lisa Peace during a timeout in the fourth quarter of the eighth-ranked Lady Panthers’ win at Mundy’s Mill on Tuesday.

Looking defeated and deflated after last Friday’s home loss to Jonesboro, the Forest Park Lady Panthers rebounded in a big way — literally — dominating the glass and paralyzing Mundy’s Mill’s offense for much of the night in a 49-43 victory that kept Forest Park in first place in Region 4-AAAA.

The Panthers received a team effort with balanced scoring, and were led by Lisa Pease who grabbed eight of her game-high 16 rebounds in the first quarter. She also added three blocked shots and three steals to her stat line before halftime as Forest Park set an early tone of defensive intensity.

The Panthers used an aggressive box-and-one scheme which forced the Lady Tigers into 10 first-half turnovers and frustrated Mundy’s Mill guard Brianna McQueen, holding the sharpshooter to just four first-half points.

“Initially, that type of defense wasn’t our goal,” Forest Park coach Steven Cole said. “We just wanted to stop her from penetrating, but we realized we needed to shut her down early so we went to the box and one and it just worked for us.”

In addition to a better showing on defense, Cole said he was pleased with his team’s improved free-throw shooting since the Jonesboro loss, as well as their ability to bounce back from adversity.

“We’re not playing one-and-done yet,” Cole said. “So a loss in the regular season like we had last Friday doesn’t mean too much. Tonight, we just went back to the drawing board and worked hard.”

After a slow first quarter for both teams — only a combined 12 points were scored — the Lady Panthers’ quick hands and feet defensively began to put some separation between them and the Lady Tigers. During a two-minute stretch in the second quarter, Forest Park forced five turnovers in six Mundy’s Mill possessions, converting each into an easy basket or free throws.

In the second half, Mundy’s Mill tried to cut into its 19-13 halftime deficit by applying a soft full-court press. Forest Park’s Shakira Thompson made sure her team wouldn’t crack under the pressure. Thompson broke the press by sinking a 17-foot shot from the wing that sparked a 14-2 Forest Park run, helping to extend the lead to 38-23 going into the fourth.

McQueen finally caught fire, scoring 15 of her game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter — all but five of her team’s points in the period — but clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch helped Forest Park to hold on.

Thompson, who hit four of those big free throws, drew high praise from Cole, who attributed her play coming off the bench to a more inspired effort.

“Shakira really gave us a boost tonight with the way she played and shot the ball,” Cole said. “You never know who the hero will be and tonight I think she was.”

Moneisha Dyer added 11 points for Mundy’s Mill, which dropped to 15-5 and 11-3 in region play. They head into their Friday night contest at Creekside two games behind region-leading Forest Park.

Ashlee Cole had a team-high 14 points while Tamara Brewster chipped in six points and swiped seven rebounds of her own. Forest Park will travel to Morrow Friday night, hoping to keep its focus sharp.

“We have to make sure that we stay focused, no matter the level of competition,” Cole said. “We still have an opportunity to reach all of our goals.”