By Deitra P. Johnson (ADW Sports Editor)
The Lady Panthers of Forest Park know disappointment.
After dominating Region 4AAAA all last season, they were defeated by S.W. DeKalb in the GHSA’s 2010 Final Four.
They weren’t about to let that happen again. But it wasn’t easy. A tough squad from Peachtree City just wouldn’t go away.
Forest Park (24-5) had to fight off a pesky McIntosh High School (26-5 in 3AAAA) in the second round of post-season play, to advance to the 2011 quarterfinals, registering a 51-49 win over the Lady Chiefs at home on March 1.
Forest Park was led by Ashlee Cole’s 18 points, and Keyonna Allen’s 13. Jessica Anderson also chipped in 10.
Trailing 51-43 with under a minute left to play, McIntosh point guard Gabby Seiler hit a jumper to cut the deficit to eight. Following a miss on an easy layup by Forest Park, Elle Saunders connected on a 3-pointer at the other end with just 20.8 seconds left, making the score 51-48.
The Lady Panthers then committed a turnover giving possession back to McIntosh. Flustering Forest Park’s defense with her ball handling, Seiler was finally fouled on a 3-point attempt with five seconds remaining, giving the playmaker three free throw attempts and a chance to tie the score.
However, Seiler, a starting sophomore, subsequently missed her first attempt, made the second, and was called for a lane violation on what appeared to be an attempt at an intentional miss on the third. Seiler finished with 16 points.
The clock was in Forest Park’s favor as time expired.
“I feel good about the outcome,” said Forest Park coach Steven Cole. “That was a tough team…they were well coached. We had to play their style of basketball because ours wasn’t working.”
For most of the first half, the two teams traded baskets. At the 3:03 mark in the second quarter, Panther freshman Kayla Potts tied the score at 22, but Laura Higgason answered on the other end with a jumper that put McIntosh up by two, 22-24. Four more points were scored by both squads before Cole hit a layup as time ran out in the period, giving Forest Park a 30-28 halftime advantage.
Cole returned in the second half on fire. She hit three straight baskets for Forest Park to open the third quarter, followed by a big layup by Allen at 4:30. Allen also drew a foul and was able to complete the three-point play, putting her team up 40-31, its biggest lead.
However, led by Seiler’s tenacity, the Lady Chiefs were able to mount a rally, cutting the lead back to six, 44-38, going into the final stanza and the nail-biting ending.
Higgason led all scorers with 18 points — including six 3-pointers — helping to finish her high school career with over 1,000 points, only the third girl’s basketball player to do so in McIntosh H.S. history.