Forest Park senior guard Shakira Thompson tries to inbounds the ball against Southwest DeKalb in the second half of the teams’ non-region on Friday. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
FOREST PARK - Steven Cole schedule games against top-ranked competition to get a gauge of where his team is at during the season.
From all indications, the Panther are on the right path after Friday’s matchup against defending Class AAAAA champion Southwest DeKalb. Forest Park came up short in its upset bid of the Southwest, but Cole liked his team’s effort in the 55-53 non-region loss at home.
“At Forest Park we preach and concentrate on effort, not outcome,” Cole said. “We made a few mental mistakes that cost us in the end, but I like the effort. We feel if you give a good effort that you will get a positive outcome.”
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. Like Friday’s match-up it was close game won by Southwest at Kennesaw State.
The Panthers would go on to win their fourth state title in six years with the win.
“I expected another close game,” Southwest coach Kathy Walton said. “That is what you expect in a rivalry. I think we will meet again. They have a good team. They are a Final Four team. I just hope we can get back there.”
Southwest led 25-20 at the intermission and increased the lead to as many as seven in the second half. But Forest Park would always pull it close.
For most of the third quarter, Southwest would answer an attempt by the Panthers with a 3-pointer by a variety of players.
“It is not just one set player we look for,” Walton said. “We don’t put that pressure on one person. Anybody has the green light if they see they can make the shot.”
Southwest was led by Tynice Martin, who had a game-high 25 points. 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 for the Panthers, who fell to 9-6 on the season. Southwest improved to 12-2.
Forest Park will host Drew on Saturday in the first Region 4-AAAAA, Div. A contest of the season. Aside from playing without point guard Kayla Potts, who is sidelined for the season with a knee injury, Forest Park was without Kanisha Tharpe, who had to sitout the game after drawing a fragrant foul in the Panthers previous game.
“We saw that we were right there with Southwest,” Cole said. “We played them tough.”
“It just showed that we can play with state championship and playoff teams,” Wilson said. “We just have to keep building off this game, and not look back.”
Thompson hit a 3-pointer with 2:42 remaining to give Forest Park its first lead 48-47 since early in the second quarter. Southwest would finally tie the game at 53-53 with 22 seconds left on a jumper by Martin.
A turnover by Forest Park on its next possession would give the ball back to Southwest, and Wingate would score on a layup for what was the game-winning basket.
“I just wanted to hit that shot and not blow the assist,” Wingate said. “We really played well as a team, and it wasn’t just one individual that gets the credit.”