Photo by Jerry Jackson: Forest Park guard Raven Wynn (23) had a team-high 15 points, but it wasn’t enough, as the Lady Panthers missed out on a third straight trip to the semifinals with a 51-40 loss to Alcovy in Fort Valley on Friday.
FORT VALLEY — As the fourth quarter was set to begin, Forest Park saw itself faced with a 19-point deficit.
At that point, the Lady Panthers could have either fought to get back in the Class AAAA quarterfinals game or just been content with having another spectacular season.
Forest Park coach Steven Cole knew which route his team was going to take.
Although the Lady Panthers put up a good fight, it wasn't enough to earn a third straight trip to the semifinals.
Alcovy hung on for a 51-40 victory on Friday to advance to the Arena at Gwinnett Center for its first trip to the semifinals in school history.
"We could have easily folded when we got down, but my team is tough, and that is not like them," Cole said. "We are going to fight, because that is the nature of this program."
A layup by Forest Park center Tamara Brewster cut the lead to 48-40 with 38 seconds remaining, but the Lady Panthers could get no closer. Three times in the last five minutes, Forest Park had the lead under double digits.
"We could never get over that hump," said junior guard Raven Wynn, who had a team-high 15 points."Nothing was really falling for us. We had a comeback, but we couldn't finish it. I'm proud we didn't quit."
Ashlee Cole finished with 13 points and Brewster had 10 for the Lady Panthers, who end their season with a 23-7 record.
"We ran out of gas," Ashlee Cole said. "We had to overcome too much to get back into it. We didn't quit."
Alcovy stormed to a 14-6 lead to end the opening period, and extended it to 24-11 at the intermission.
Through the first three quarters, Cole only had three points. Alcovy coach Kidada Holtzclaw said the game plan was to limit Cole's touches on the ball.
"We knew Ashlee is a great player and leader," Holtzclaw said. "We wanted to concentrate our defense on her."
Holtzclaw said her team started playing not to lose in the fourth quarter.
"We were playing timid," she said. "I called a timeout and asked them if they really wanted it."
With the win, Alcovy meets Miller Grove on Wednesday in the semifinals in Gwinnett.
After Forest Park sustained injuries to two starters — Kayla Potts and Lisa Pease — during the season, many didn't think the Lady Panthers could make a run.
Steven Cole said his team's confidence never wavered.
"Alcovy was the better team tonight," Cole said. "Sometimes when you play a lot of younger players, it takes them a minute to get use to a big atmosphere. To make the final four takes some luck."