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Forest Park girls' defense smothers McIntosh

Forest Park coach Steven Cole is expecting the return of Tiffany Wilson (right) to bolster a young Lady Panthers squad. Wilson missed most of last season with a knee injury.

Forest Park coach Steven Cole is expecting the return of Tiffany Wilson (right) to bolster a young Lady Panthers squad. Wilson missed most of last season with a knee injury.

FOREST PARK — The last time Forest Park and McIntosh girls met on the basketball court, the Lady Panthers scored a one point victory in the Class AAAA quarterfinals that left coach Steven Cole emotional.

The two teams met again Tuesday night in an early season matchup with less at stake, but with a similar result as Forest Park defeated the previously undefeated Lady Chiefs 29-21 in a non-region contest.

And while Cole said he was glad to win, he also indicated an awareness of his team’s need to improve.

“We’re a young team and it’s a learning process for us right now,” Cole said. “It’s good for us too win, but it’s even better to win while playing good.”

Breasia McElrath led the Lady Panthers with eight points, including several strong drives to the hoop at times when others seemed hesitant to shoot.

But given the fact that this Forest Park club, which graduated five players from last year’s quarterfinals team were able to knock off virtually the same McIntosh team they met last season — the Lady Chiefs graduate just one player from last season — bodes well for the Panthers’ potential.

“(McIntosh) is probably going to be the best opposition will face on the other side of our region,” Cole said. “It’s going to be stiff competition, given how young we are right now.”

After being down by as much as 13 in the first half, McIntosh scratched and clawed its way back in the game behind guard Gabby Seiler. Seiler drained a mid range jumper for two of her game-high 10 points to draw McIntosh to within six points.

That’s when McElrath went to work, penetrating hard to the basket on back to back possessions to help extend Forest Park’s lead back to 10 points with 7:06 left in the fourth quarter.

From there, the Panthers defense frustrated McIntosh’s Princeton-style half-court offense to its lowest offensive output since last season’s 37-21 loss to Collins Hill.

The Lady Chiefs (3-1) had more first quarter turnovers (five) than they had points (two). Cole said he wants such defensive performances to be the rule, not the exception, for his Lady Panthers.

“As I’ve said before, no team is the same,” Cole said.

“Last year we were averaging about 60 points a game. This year it may just be 45. That may just be the way we play. But one thing we’re going to do at Forest Park if we don’t do anything else is play defense. We’re not changing or adding anything. We’re just going to get better at what we do.”

With the win, Forest Park raised its record to 2-0 heading into Friday’s game at Creekside.