Class 6A blog: Lovejoy girls tighten race in Region 3 with victory over Forest Park

The Forest Park girls basketball team was threatening to pull away from the pack in the race for first place in Region 3-6A, but Lovejoy significantly tightened the race with a 64-47 victory over the Panthers in a matchup of top-three-ranked teams Friday at Forest Park.

Lovejoy (16-4, 8-2) remained tied for second place with Woodward Academy (16-5, 8-2), and both teams moved to within a game of Forest Park in the region standings. Lovejoy entered last week ranked No. 3 and Forest Park was No. 2, but they switched places this week. Woodward Academy held steady at No. 4.

Leading the way for Lovejoy was recent McDonald’s All-American Game nominee La’Nya Foster, who had 25 points and nine rebounds. Bryanna Preston, a first-team all-state selection last season, had 17 points, 10 assists and six rebounds. Forest Park’s Jayda Brown, a second-team all-state pick in Class 5A in 2022, scored 16 points and had six rebounds.

Things should get interesting as region play continues Tuesday night, when Forest Park travels to Woodward Academy and Lovejoy visits seventh-ranked Rockdale County (14-6, 5-4), when has fallen off the pace with three losses in its past four games. Victories by Woodward and Lovejoy would produce a three-way tie for first place.

Forest Park split the series with Lovejoy and defeated Woodward Academy 69-66 in their first meeting, at Forest Park on Nov. 29.

Lovejoy was the Class 6A champion last season. Forest Park was the 5A runner-up, losing to Woodward Academy, before both moved up during reclassification.

Elsewhere, the only Class 6A school that has its boys and girls teams in first place with about three weeks remaining in the regular season is Marist of Region 4. The second-ranked War Eagles’ boys team is 15-5 overall and 7-0 in region play, a game and a half ahead of third-ranked St. Pius. Marist defeated visiting St. Pius 49-48 on Jan. 10, but the teams will meet again at St. Pius on Feb. 3 in a game that could determine the No. 1 seed in the Region 4 tournament.

The Marist girls, unranked by the AJC but No. 13 in the MaxPreps Class 6A rankings, is 16-2 overall and 7-0 in region play, one game ahead of Riverwood. Marist won at Riverwood 59-25 on Jan. 13 and will host the Feb. 7 rematch. Marist won the state championship in 4A last year before moving up two classes during reclassification.

The other first-place boys teams are Lee County in Region 1 (two games ahead of Veterans); Grovetown in Region 2 (one game in the loss column ahead of Brunswick); Jonesboro in Region 3 (1.5 games ahead of Woodward Academy); Alexander in Region 5 (half a game ahead of Hughes); Etowah in Region 6 (1.5 games ahead of River Ridge): Blessed Trinity in Region 7 (two games ahead of Pope); and Lanier in Region 8 (two games ahead of Gainesville, North Forsyth Shiloh).

The other first-place girls teams include Veterans in Region 1 (1.5 games head of Tift County); Brunswick in Region 2 (one game in the loss column ahead of South Effingham); Forest Park in Region 3 (one game ahead of Lovejoy and Woodward Academy); Hughes in Region 5 (2.5 games ahead of New Manchester); River Ridge in Region 6 (2.5 games ahead of Rome); Pope in Region 7 (one game ahead of Lassiter); and Gainesville and North Forsyth in Region 8, where both teams are 5-1 in region play and one game ahead of Habersham Central and Lanier.

The regular-season races will determine seeding for the region tournaments, from which the top four teams in each league will advance to the state playoffs.