Forest Park senior guard Shakira Thompson is averaging 5.5 points per game coming into Saturday’s Class AAAAA semifinals game against top-ranked Southwest DeKalb. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
IF YOU GO
Who: Southwest DeKalb vs. Forest Park
When, where: Saturday, 3 p.m. at Fort Valley State University
Records, seeding: Southwest (29-2) is top seed from Region 6-AAAAA, and ranked No. 1 in the state. and the No. 1 seed from Region 6-AAAAA; Forest Park (24-8) is the No. 2 seed from Region 5-AAAAA, and ranked No. 4.
Broadcast: Video stream live on the NFHSNetwork.com/ghsa
How they got here: Southwest defeated Loganville (60-44), Sequoyah (80-66) and Stephenson (66-39); Forest Park defeated Northside-Warner Robins (54-43), Northside-Columbus (60-49) and Effingham Co. (44-37).
FOREST PARK — Some jitters are to be expected, considering this is the Class AAAAA semifinals, but there will definitely be a comfort level for both Southwest DeKalb and Forest Park in Saturday’s girls state basketball tournament contest.
The two teams have played each other enough to not fear one another when they meet today at 3 p.m. at Fort Valley State.
Since 2010, the teams have met five times, including twice in a state-playoff semifinals game.
“We are so familiar with each other,” Forest Park coach Steven Cole said. “This is almost like a regular season game.”
Southwest coach Kathy Walton agreed.
“I think this is great for girl’s basketball,” she said. “This is very exciting that two teams like this are going to play in the state playoffs. If we show up, I think it will be a good game.”
But if there is one trend that Forest Park senior forward Tiffany Wilson would like to change, it is her team’s losing against the defending state champions. Southwest, which enters the game on a 22-game winning streak, has won four of the last state titles in either Class AAAAA or AAAA.
“Of course when you play someone like Southwest DeKalb you want to go even harder,” said Wilson, a UNC-Asheville signee. “We are in the same position we were last season. If you beat someone like Southwest, it definitely helps your program.”
The last two games between the rivals have come down to the closing seconds. In a 55-53 loss on Jan. 3, Forest Park wasn’t able to get a shot off in the last two seconds after in-bounding the ball under its basket.
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-Asheville signee, led Forest Park with 21 points. Shakira Thompson and Breasia McElrath each had seven points.
“Forest Park is a tough opponent,” Walton said. “I thought we would see them again, but I was thinking it would be in the next round if we both could get that far. Coach Cole and I are very good friends, and that is why we play each other in the regular season. We always like to get the most out of our teams.”
Forest Park is a No. 2 seed from Region 4-AAAAA after losing to Drew in the region tournament championship game. Drew is playing Tucker in the other semifinals game on Saturday. The winners will meet on Thursday in Macon for the state title.
“Clayton County has some good basketball,” Walton said.
To get to this round, Forest Park has had to play consecutive games on the road. After defeating Northside-Columbus on Tuesday, the Panthers had to travel to Effingham County the next day for a quarterfinals game. All three of Southwest playoff games have been at home.
“I think winning those games on the road has really helped our confidence,” Wilson said. “It really showed us about our mental toughness.”