Photo by Derrick Mahone
Forest Park center Breasia McElrath (with ball) and forward Tiffany Wilson practice their post moves during Thursday’s practice as the Lady Panthers prepare to take on Southwest DeKalb in the Class AAAAA semifinals.
FOREST PARK — Southwest DeKalb and Forest Park have played before, but neither team’s coach is factoring that into their scouting report.
There is much more on the line Saturday when the two perennial playoff contenders meet at Kennesaw State in the semifinals of the Class AAAAA playoffs.
The winner advances to next week’s title game.
Southwest DeKalb coach Kathy Walton said it would be misleading to gauge Forest Park on the matchup earlier this season.
Walton expects to see a different Forest Park team than the one her team defeated 65-33 at home on Jan. 26. For starters, Lady Panthers point guard and leading scorer Kayla Potts will play this time.
In the regular season meeting, Potts was out ill.
And her absence was felt on the court.
When Southwest defeated Forest Park in the 2010 Class AAAA semifinals, Potts had been sidelined for the season after sustaining a season-ending knee injury.
“We dodged a bullet the last couple of times,” Walton said. “I don’t think that will be the case this time.”
Although Potts has never played against Southwest, Lady Panthers coach Steven Cole is confident that Saturday’s opponent is familiar with her ability.
“I’m sure they know about Kayla,” Cole said. “She is a player I’m sure they are preparing for. We know each other and what each team likes to do. We know what they are comfortable with doing and they know the same thing about us. We have a lot of respect for their program and coach.”
Potts, a junior, is having a MVP-type season after returning from a year off to rehab her knee. She is averaging 11.9 points since returning to the line-up earlier this year.
“I’m ready,” Potts said before the start of Thursday practice. “I think its our time. I know they are going to be experience since they have been there before.”
Forest Park forward Tiffany Wilson said she was happy to see that they were in the same bracket as Southwest.
“I’m glad we play them again,” Wilson said. “We have to stay focused on our goal. Southwest is a great team with a lot of pride.”
Actually, this would have been a rebuilding season for an ordinary team, but Southwest is state power.
Walton had only one starter returning from last season’s team that reached the Class AAAA finals. She counts two freshmen among her starters.
Having built a powerhouse program has created a sense of urgency for Southwest this season.
“They have a lot of pride in this program,” Walton said. “They hear it from our former players. This team wants to create their own legacy and be successful.”
This is Forest Park’s third semifinal appearance in the last four seasons. On the season, both teams have been successful at neutral sites. Forest Park has compiled a 5-2 record at neutral sites while Southwest is perfect in eight games.
“I’m pleased at how the team has put in the work from the beginning of the season,” Cole said. “I’m happy, but not surprised at how far this team has come. These girls have really put in the work.”