Girls basketball: Woodward Academy 70, Forest Park 64

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Spotting the opponent 11 points to start the game is never a good idea, particularly when the recipient is the Class 5A No. 3-ranked team in the state. But such a hole proved only to be a mere obstacle for the No. 1-ranked Woodward Academy girls.

The visiting War Eagles roared back to beat Forest Park 70-65 and improved to 18-2 overall and 10-0 in Region 3. Forest Park dropped to 12-4 and 8-2 in league play. It would not be surprising to see the two teams play again in the region tournament next month at Tri-Cities. They met for the state championship last year, with Woodward prevailing in Macon.

“That was not our best start,” Woodward Academy coach Kim Lawrence said. “From there it was pretty much a matter of staying consistent and doing what we’ve been doing all year. Basketball is a game of runs and they had theirs to start the game. We knew our girls just needed to weather the storm and continue to do what we’ve been preaching all year.”

Finding themselves down by 11 didn’t appear to faze the War Eagles. Although their shots weren’t falling at first, they stayed in the game because of a typical defensive effort and another stellar game from University of Georgia signee Sydney Bowles. Not only did Bowles lead the team in scoring, her on-court presence helped steady the ship.

“Forest Park came out with a lot more intensity than they did the last time,” Lawrence said. “Their shots were falling and they were getting to the line. They were attacking the rim.”

Bowles gave Woodward its first lead on a three-point play with 3:53 left in the first half and Mackenzie Moring upped it to 25-22 by immediately scoring off a steal. Forest Park was never able to even the game again and Woodward had a 34-28 lead at the half.

Forest Park tenaciously plugged away and got to within a point when Nicora Patrick scored to make it 40-39. But Woodward went on a 9-0 run and upped the lead to 10.

Forest Park made another charge late in the fourth quarter and Yasmine Allen’s 3-pointer made it a four-point game. The Panthers were unable to get closer and a pair of free throws from Woodward’s Kennedie Mosley with 16.2 seconds put the game away.

Forest Park got 32 points from Allen and 17 points from Jayda Brown.

Woodward was led by Bowles with 27 and 10 points each from Moring and Sara Lewis.

“We still have some things we need to fine tune, make sure we’re staying sharp and staying hungry,” Lawrence said. “You can’t take anything for granted, just because we won last year. You keep trying to get better.”