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Brookhaven Lady Panthers are championship bound

Ole Brook’s Lady Panthers dominated for three quarters and let the reserves mop up Tuesday night in their 55-34 win over Forest Hill in the Region 6-5A tournament.

The hosting Brookhaven girls battled hard to hold the Lady Patriots to single digits in each of the first two quarters then loosed the hounds in a 21-point third quarter that iced the game in advance. The Lady Panthers’ starters took a seat with more than four minutes remaining in the game and the team cruised into the tournament’s championship game Friday night.

“We played solid defensively early in the game, and we got some open shots outside to open the lane,” said Lady Panthers coach Preston Wilson. “After that, we pulled away.”

The Lady Panthers fired up outside shots often in the opening minutes, with sophomore Silentianna Collins and Ayanna McNairy launching from behind the arc while junior Cynphoni Thompson and freshman Ashanti Louis fired in baskets from close range. The Lady Panthers led 13-5 at the end of the first quarter.

“I took some extra shots in practice this week, and got some extra time on the court tonight before the gym filled up,” McNairy said.

The Lady Patriots’s defense expanded to close off the open looks in the second quarter, and junior Tamia Stallings got involved down low for six points. She would add eight more in Ole Brook’s 21-7 third quarter working the same plan, and by then the Lady Patriots were worn out.

“Those shots left me open against just one man,” Stallings said.

With the offense firing and the defense applying pressure everywhere, the Lady Panthers controlled every aspect of the game. They amassed 47 total rebounds, including an impressive 32 defensive boards, and took away 10 steals.

Senior Johnique James led a team-focused attack that shared out 14 assists, recording five of her own to lead the team.

The win puts the Lady Panthers in the Region 6-5A championship game Friday night against the Lady Falcons of Wingfield. The Ole Brook girls are 22-6 on the season and 6-0 in region play — they will advance to the postseason no matter the outcome Friday night.

But they aren’t thinking beyond the next game.

“We’re gonna focus on Friday night first,” Johns said. “If we play the same intensity we played with tonight, we can go far.”

Stallings led Ole Brook in scoring with 14 points, while Collins was right behind her with 13. NcNairy and Thompson dropped in eight points each, while Louis was next with seven. Junior Keyana Benjamin came off the bench late and nailed a three-pointer, while sophomore Sharquita Cook scored two.

Junior Geonna Marshall led the Lady Patriots with 17 points. Sophomore Taaliyah McGraw was next with eight points, and senior Jermecia Alexander scored six. Sophomore Ayanna Smith scored two points, and sophomore Aaliyah Westbrook hit a single free throw.