FORT VALLEY - The Alcovy girls' basketball team made sure its first appearance in the Elite Eight was a memorable one.
Now it's on to the Final Four.
The Tigers defeated Forest Park 51-40 in a game in which they led by double digits throughout most the night Friday. Alcovy (27-4) will move on to face Miller Grove Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Gwinnett Arena.
"It's pure excitement," Alcovy coach Kidada Holtzclaw said. "It's a dream come true for all our young ladies. Nobody on our team has been in this position before. This is something that we set our sights on and we set a goal for."
Before the Tigers came out of the locker room on Friday night Holtzclaw told her players what they needed to do
"Number one, we needed to cut the head off the snake," Holtzclaw said. "Ashlee Cole is a great player. We knew she was the heart of the team and the leader. The last thing we talked about was we had to cut the head off the snake with our defensive error and I think we did that."
Alcovy held Cole without a point in the first half, finishing with 11.
The Tigers let their defensive presence be known to all of Forest Park early, scoring the game's first four points, and led the rest of the way. The Tigers got two 3-poiners by Meagan Tucker, including one to end the first quarter and put Alcovy up 14-6 after one.
Alcovy scored the first six points of the second quarter forcing Forest Park to call a timeout down 20-6 with 4:16 left in the second quarter.
The Tigers allowed just five points in the second quarter behind a defense that kept Forest Park's top shooter, Cole, without a basket. The Tigers led 24-11 at halftime with Meagan Tucker getting 10 first-half points.
Tucker finished with 19 points, stretching her career total to 1,022 after crossing the 1,000-point threshold on Tuesday. The junior guard also led Alcovy with her actions, providing leadership down the stretch, holding the ball when needed and driving to the hoop when needed.
"Meagan has been a stellar leader for our team," Holtzclaw said. "She does a great job handling pressure when it comes to crunch time, she wants the ball."
She controlled the ball during the fourth quarter when
Forest Park mounted its brief comeback.
Leading 42-33 with about 5 minutes left Alcovy went to a spread out prevent offense. The Panthers responded as part of a 13-3 run to open the third quarter.
The Panthers brought it within 10, 43-33 on Raven Wynn's field goal. The Panthers then brought it under double digits for the first time since the first quarter on Wynn's 3-pointer to make it 44-36. Alcovy called a timeout with 2:51 remaining to try and secure the win.
The Tigers did, inserting Ashley Williams, who was sitting most of the fourth quarter with four fouls and scored the next two points.
Alcovy capped the victory on a 5-2 run to earn a trip to the Gwinnett Arena.