Senior Tiffany Wilson has been third on the Forest Park team in points and tied for the rebounding leader coming into today’s game against Southwest DeKalb. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
FOREST PARK — The Forest Park girl’s team will get a quick reminder of how close it came to playing for a state title last season.
Forest Park will host defending Class AAAAA champion Southwest DeKalb this evening in a 6 p.m. tip-off, which is a rematch of last season’s state semifinals at Kennasaw State. Forest Park led most of the contest, but wasn’t able to close the deal as it lost 43-41 last March.
Southwest would go on to defeat Region 6-AAAAA rival Miller Grove for its fourth state title in the last six seasons.
“This is always an important game for us,” Forest Park coach Steven Cole said. “It gives us a chance to see where we are at. We are trying to get to where Southwest DeKalb is with the championships. They have a great coach, and it is always a big game.”
The Panthers have never defeated the powerhouse program. They have met twice in the state playoffs, and a couple of times in the regular season.
Both teams return the core of its players from last year’s contest. The key missing player is Forest Park point guard Kayla Potts, who sustained a season-ending ACL injury during summer workouts.
It was thought that the reigning Clayton News Daily county player of the year would return in the second half of the season, but Cole confirmed it will not be possible. In last season’s loss to Southwest, Potts scored 19 points with six rebounds and an assist.
Last season, Potts averaged 12.4 points for the Panthers, who won the Region 5-AAAAA championship en route to the state semifinals appearance. Forest Park finished last season with a 25-8 record.
Forest Park will enter the game with a 9-5 overall record as it starts it subregion schedule on Saturday with a game against Drew.
“We lost five tough games to some good opponents,” Cole said. “We are getting ready for the region. We won the games that we were supposed to win, and now we have to stay focused.”
The Panthers are led by junior Breasia McElrath, who is averaging 10.9 points per game for a team that is averaging 50.5 points per game. Tamecia Blue, a sophomore, is second on the team with a 9.1 average per game. Blue plays the point guard spot and is averaging 3.4 assists and 3.9 steals per game.
“She has played well for us,” Cole said. “I don’t know if you ever replace someone like Kayla. We needed someone to step up, and Tamecia has done a good job.”
Southwest comes into the game with an 11-2 record with losses to Tucker and Windward of Los Angeles in the Tournament of Champions in Phoenix, Ariz., after the Christmas break.
So far this season, Southwest has played in three tournaments and is averaging 63.7 points per game.
Tiffany Wilson said a win over Southwest would serve as notice to the rest of the region.
“It would give us some notoriety in the state,” said Wilson, who is averaging 8.5 points and eight rebounds per game. “They are one of the top programs in the state. We have played well this season, but we know we can play much better.”