MACON — It took nine years for the Lady Panthers to return to the state championship game but this time, they made sure to leave with the title rather than runner-up.
Forest Park put on a clinic early against the Glynn Academy Lady Terrors in the 46-30 victory. At the end of it all, the birthday victory was just as sweet for the Lady Panthers’ head coach.
“It feels really good,” Cole said. “It gets the monkey off our back and the girls have been working really hard.”
From the beginning, things looked to be a run away from the tip off and the first half set the tone for what would be the Lady Panthers’ state title finish.
The first half found Forest Park leading the way offensively. Glynn Academy couldn’t hit a single shot of the 11 they put up while an efficient 5-of-8 paced the Lady Panthers. Add in their ability to get to the free throw line, the Lady Panthers’ 13-2 lead was almost destined to set the tone.
The defensive side of the ball helped force the Lady Terrors out of position. And it was all to Cole’s plan.
“We wanted to slow them down and we wanted to play our pace of the game and limit them to one shot,” Cole said. “Zoesha Smith gets a lot of put backs and we wanted to keep her off the boards.”
Forest Park’s 13-2 lead in the first quarter featured six forced turnovers and four steals. Leading the Lady Panthers wasn’t Gatorade Player of the Year Sania Feagin either. Instead, Forest Park was powered by Janaya Jones who scored six.
The Lady Terrors’ two points came from the free throw line.
It was like a clinic but the Lady Panthers weren’t going to be able to keep the pace up. Not from fatigue but fouls began to be an issue for each side of the ball early.
Both sides committed five fouls but players that didn’t need them were Jasmine Jacob and Joi Reid who each picked up two. Feagin even fell victim to foul trouble in the second quarter which led to a personnel switch in the second quarter.
“She’s our awesome player,” Cole said of Feagin. “She carried us all year and she did a great job getting us over the top.”
That switch led to the Lady Panthers going cold from the field for three minutes.
The Lady Terrors led the way offensively in the second quarter as their shooting from the field continued to struggle. What was an 0-11 start turned into 3-20 from the field. What was leading the Lady Terrors were their ability to score at the free throw line by drawing the shooting fouls.
Glynn Academy did score more than the Lady Panthers did in the second quarter but the Lady Panthers kept their scoring consistent enough and the defense continued to force turnovers without Feagin who sat for four minutes due to picking up her second foul in the second quarter.
Even though Forest Park was missing on rebounds, the shooting wasn’t there for the Lady Terrors. Glynn Academy had 19 rebounds with only six second chance points to show for it at halftime.
The third quarter was the same for the Lady Terrors. Shooting continued to struggle and Forest Park was capitalizing on it. Add in foul trouble and the Lady Panthers were in the drivers seat.
The Lady Terrors kept sending Forest Park to the free throw line and the Lady Panthers were as close to automatic picking up five of their 13 points in the third quarter at the line. Add in their shooting from the floor, the Lady Panthers kept Glynn Academy out of reach by about 12 points entering the final quarter of play.
Fouls came back into the picture in the final quarter. Glynn Academy lost two players to fouls and almost lost Smith too. But the Lady Panthers kept to their own base with the threat of losing the lead no longer in the picture, playing a combination of bench and starters.
A lead as large as 16 points for the final five minutes of play ultimately solidified the finish of the game. Forest Park exited with the 46-30 victory as the Lady Terrors finished with a paltry 22.2 percent (10-of-45) shooting effort.
Reid finished with 11 points for the Lady Panthers with Feagin notching 10. The Lady Panthers led for 31 minutes of the game also.