Tiffany Wilson, left, and coach Steven Cole will help lead the Forest Park Panthers back to the Class AAAAA semifinals with a rematch against Southwest DeKalb. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
RIVERDALE — Drew is in uncharted territory while Forest Park is back in a familiar setting.
The two Clayton County schools will play in the Class AAAAA semifinals on Saturday with a trip to the finals in Macon on the line.
It is the second straight season that Forest Park will play in the semifinals, where the Panthers will meet Southwest DeKalb. This marks the second straight year the two teams will have met in the semifinals.
Tip-off is at 3 p.m. at Fort Valley State University. Drew will play the winner of the Tucker-Salem game on Saturday at 8:15 p.m. at the same location.
Last season, Southwest won 43-41 at Kennesaw State in the semifinals before going on to win its fourth title in the last five seasons.
Southwest won an earlier matchup 55-53 on Jan. 3 between the teams at Forest Park.
For Drew, it is the first time in program history that the girls team has advanced to the semifinals. Until this season, the Titans hadn’t won a state playoff game in two previous appearances.
“It is definitely an exciting time for our program as we are making history,” Drew coach Candence Jackson said.
The Titans earned a trip to the semifinals with a win at Greenbrier on Wednesday. It was the first road playoff win for the Titans, whose previous games were at home because they were a No. 1 seed after winning the Region 4-AAAAA tournament.
In the 72-59 win over the Lady Wolfpack, senior Lakiah Sims had a game-high 32 points to pace the team. Throughout the postseason, the region player of the year has averaged 28 points.
Sims is the lone player on the team with any playoff experience.
“She is our go-to person and leader,” Jackson said. “She has really carried the team, but she has a good supporting cast.”
In the earlier loss to Southwest DeKalb, the Panthers had a shot at a win, but failed to get a shot off in the closing seconds.
Southwest guard Davion Wingate hit a layup with five seconds remaining for the deciding basket in a rematch of last season’s Class AAAAA semifinals.
Southwest was led by Tynice Martin, who had a game-high 25 points in that earlier game. Wingate, the daughter of former Georgetown standout and NBA player David Wingate, had eight points.
Tiffany Wilson, a UNC-Ashville signee, led Forest Park with 21 points. Shakira Thompson and Breasia McElrath each had seven points.
Jackson said it is special having two teams in the county and region to reach the semifinals. Drew and Forest Park split during the regular season with Drew winning in the region championship game earlier this month at McIntosh High.
“This is huge for our county and region,” Jackson said. “It definitely speaks volumes for our county. We have some excellent student-athletes that don’t always get the credit they deserve. I know people are always talking about DeKalb and Gwinnett, but there is some good basketball in our county. I think we have both represented our county well.”