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Second-half surge lifts Forest Park girls

Photo by Jerry Jackson
Forest Park forward Breasia McElrath tries to drive to the basketball during the first half of the Lady Panthers’ 40-27 win over Starr’s Mill in the Region 4-AAAAA tournament semifinals on Thursday.

Photo by Jerry Jackson Forest Park forward Breasia McElrath tries to drive to the basketball during the first half of the Lady Panthers’ 40-27 win over Starr’s Mill in the Region 4-AAAAA tournament semifinals on Thursday.

McDONOUGH — Still alive for a title and still perfect. That sums up the Forest Park girl’s basketball team.

Thanks to a 13-2 third quarter, Forest Park defeated Starr’s Milll 40-27 and advanced to today’s Region 4-AAAAA championship game. The win marked the 17th time Forest Park has beaten a region opponent this season without a loss and sets up a meeting with a familiar opponent — McIntosh.

“This is like a three-year deal,” Forest Park coach Steve Cole said. “Every year we’re playing [McIntosh] to continue in state and this year we’re playing to see who is going to be the region champ.”

Before Forest Park (21-7) cemented its title game appearance, a feisty Starr’s Mill team stood in its way. Starr’s Mill held a 20-19 lead at halftime when Forest Park started the second half strong.

Halfway through the third quarter, a Breasia McElrath bucket in the paint followed by a Kayla Potts 3-pointer put Forest Park up 26-20. Less than a minute later McElrath was scoring on the inside again to make the score 28-20.

Two free throws by Potts eventually got the score up to 30-20 before an all of sudden cold shooting Starr’s Mill scored.

“We just had to get ourselves together,” Coles said. “Get our defense setup right and start making the right rotations., and then we started getting some more plays inside.”

The contribution from Potts was especially timely as she sat out the second quarter after picking up her third foul, a charging call, late in the first quarter.

In her place Tequilla Richardson scored five key points, including a 3-pointer that briefly gave Forest Park an 18-17 lead. She also registered a steal that helped Forest Park convert a free throw for its 19th point.

“We played half the season without [Potts],” Cole said. “Tequilla is our only senior on the team. She’s a leader and she stepped up tonight and did what she had to do by knocking down some shots and playing some great defense.”

Tiffany Wilson led Forest Park with nine points, while McElrath, Potts, Imani Richards, and Shakira Thompson all had six points each. Two driving buckets by Richards ended any chance of a Starr’s Mill comeback, putting Forest Park up 38-25 with a little over two minutes left to play.

Katie Wilson of Starr’s Mill (16-9) was the game’s high scorer with 12 points.

McIntosh defeated Whitewater 46-22 in its semifinal contest.

Forest Park owns a 29-21 home victory over McIntosh this season, but Cole knows the Lady Chiefs will be difficult.

“I know its going to be a tough game,” Cole said. “Gabby Seiler is a great player and we respect her.”