Woodward Academy outscored Forest Park 20-0 over the final five minutes of the first half to break open what had been a one-point game and coasted to a 72-44 victory over its Region 3 rival in the Class 5A girls basketball championship game Thursday at the Macon Coliseum.

Top-ranked Woodward Academy (29-2) earned its second consecutive Class 5A championship and its fifth state title overall. The victory was the seventh in two seasons against Forest Park, including a 62-59 win in the 2021 championship game.

“It’s just truly a blessing, for all the work the girls have put in, that we’ve put in over the years and this season, to come back and win another one against a very good Forest Park team, again,” Woodward Academy coach Kim Lawrence said. “Yes, I’m excited. I don’t even know what other words to say.”

Sydney Bowles, a Georgia signee who on Wednesday was named the Gatorade Georgia Girls Basketball Player of the Year, got off to a slow start, shooting 0-for-4 from the field and scoring just one point in the first quarter. In fact, the War Eagles as a whole were cold in the first eight minutes, making just three of 15 shots, including 0-for-5 from 3-point range.

However, they got things going in the second, especially Bowles, who scored 12 of her team-high 19 points.

Second-ranked Forest Park (22-7) trailed 18-17 after a layup by Jayda Brown with 5:06 remaining in the first half, but Bowles’ 3-pointer 10 seconds later ignited the game-deciding run. She had nine points in that stretch, and the War Eagles got five more from Sara Lewis and two each from Zoe Scott, Kayla Whitner and Kennedie Mosely to lead 38-17 at halftime.

“We preach defense,” Lawrence said. “Defense travels. Your shot might not be falling, as it was in the first quarter, but defense travels. That’s what we’ve been preaching to the girls all season. Let our defense create our offense. In that second quarter, our defense got better and our shots started falling.”

Forest Park had to endure much of the run with Brown on the bench after the junior guard picked up her fourth foul with 3:58 remaining in the half. Brown was leading the Panthers in scoring at that point with six points, and Forest Park trailed just 23-17.

She scored Forest Park’s first two points of the second half to cut Woodward Academy’s lead to 38-19 but fouled out with 6:49 remaining in the third quarter. She finished with eight points.

Yasmine Allen led the Panthers in scoring with 19 points, including 14 in the second half.

A short jump shot by Bowles gave Woodward Academy its biggest lead of the night at 52-22 with 3:13 remaining in the third quarter. Forest Park never got closer than 19 points, when Hannah Stanley’s jumper with 5:07 remaining in the game made it 57-38. Woodward Academy scored the next 10 points to seal the victory.

Woodward’s Lewis had 17 points and six steals, and MacKenzie Moring scored 11 points. Bowles added seven rebounds, six assists and a steal.

Forest Park - 8-9-15-12 - 44

Woodward Academy - 11-27-18-16 - 72

Forest Park (44): Yasmine Allen 19, Jayda Brown 8, Nicora Patrick 5, Makayla Arnold 4, Michayia Davis 3, Aaishah Berry 3, Hannah Stanley 2, Hannah Willis, Janiya Simmons, Olivia Ross.

Woodward Academy (72): Sydney Bowles 19, Sara Lewis 17, MacKenzie Moring 11, Kameron Herring 6, Kennedie Mosely 6, Zoe Scott 5, Rhian Richardson 3, Kayla Whitner 2, Delaney Cooper 2, Ty Martin 1, Kelley Chapman, Miranda Merchant, Anna Wylder.