Class 5A blog: Forest Park girls bring lofty expectations

The Forest Park Lady Panthers celebrate their 46-30 victory over the Glynn Academy Terrors in the Class AAAAAA state championship on Saturday, March 7, 2020 at the Macon Centreplex. (Adam Krohn for the AJC)
The Forest Park Lady Panthers celebrate their 46-30 victory over the Glynn Academy Terrors in the Class AAAAAA state championship on Saturday, March 7, 2020 at the Macon Centreplex. (Adam Krohn for the AJC)

Expectations are always high for the Forest Park girls basketball team, probably as high as most of the top programs in the state. This year is no exception.

“We feel that if we don’t make it to the Final Four, the season has been a bust,” said veteran coach Steven Cole.

Those are high standards, even for a program that won the Class 6A championship last year. The Panthers are competing in Class 5A this season and are among the handful of favorites to end up in the big game at the Macon Coliseum in mid-March.

“The girls have bought in and they have a lot of expectations,” Cole said. “When you’re the defending champion, everybody gets up to play you and you have to be prepared. There’s no down period and the girls understand that.”

Forest Park went 27-6 last year and routed Glynn Academy 46-30 in the championship game. The Panthers got off to a 13-2 lead in the final and never led by fewer than six points the rest of the way. Their closest margin of victory in the playoffs was 11 points.

Forest Park was 27-5 in 2018-19 and lost to Lanier in the title game. The Panthers were 21-5 in 2017-18. That adds up to 83-18 over the last three-plus seasons.

The Panthers are again led 6-foot-4 senior Sania Feagin, who has signed with South Carolina. Feagin, a first-team all-state selection last season, is averaging 19.8 points, 11 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 6.1 blocks. Last year, when she was chosen as the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year, she averaged 17.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.6 blocks.

“I’ve been here 20 years and she may be the best we’ve had come through here at Forest Park,” Cole said. “She have all the tools … post play, handing the ball, shooting, leadership.

The other senior starters are Olympia Chaney, a transfer from Westlake who averages 12.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 4.1 steals, and Jasmine Stevens, a four-year starter who averages 11.6 points and 6.2 rebounds.

The rest of the lineup is young. Sophomore Jayda Brown is in her second season as the starting point guard and averages 6.3 points, 2.9 assists and 2.8 steals, while freshman Yasmine Allen averages 5.1 points and 2.1 rebounds. Senior Ghylissa Knowles averages 5.9 points off the bench.

“The pride comes in with putting in the work and understanding what it takes to be a champion,” Cole said. “At Forest Park we try to be more than just a girls basketball team. We try to teach life skills, our program is academic-based and our girls are held to high expectations.”

The Panthers (8-2) have played a challenging schedule and have lost only to Class AA powerhouse Holy Innocents’ and mighty Monteverde Academy of Orlando, Fla., in overtime. Their wins include Southwest DeKalb, Greater Atlanta Christian and Lovejoy.

Forest Park has plays once-beaten Tri-Cities on Tuesday in a big Region 3 contest. The Bulldogs are led by Shyni McGee, who averages 21 points, 11.3 rebounds and 4.1 steals.

Forest Park has difficult two tough non-region game coming up against old rival Hughes and Westlake, the defending Class 7A champion, and returns to league play to face Woodward Academy.

“We want to play against the best,” Cole said. “It prepares you for the next level.”

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