Forest Park looking for championship breakthrough

No. 12 Foresters top Boonsboro for another 1A state girls basketball semifinal berth; Patterson Mill and Pikesville advance

Published 3/4/2023 1:32 p.m. EST, Updated 3/6/2023 10:48 a.m. EST

Chaniya Taylor (left) and Aliyah Carroll combine for 29 points Friday for Forest Park girls basketball team's victory over Boonsboro in the Class 1A state quarterfinals. The Foresters will play Snow Hill or Mountain Ridge in a state semifinal match Tuesday or Wednesday.

With the remnants of a basketball net around his neck, Forest Park High girls basketball coach Jermaine Dunn paused for a moment Friday to savor another state semifinal appearance.

“I don’t think too many saw us getting back, but they’ve worked their butts off,” said Dunn. “They deserved everything that’s coming to them.”

The No. 12 Foresters advanced with a 50-16 state quarterfinal romp over Washington County’s Boonsboro in Northwest Baltimore. No. 10 Pikesville took another step in its quest for a 1A state title, handling Coppin Academy, 59-17. Saturday, Patterson Mill traveled to Prince George’s County and defeated CMIT North, 51-23.

The No. 10 Panthers (21-5) used a 25-point second quarter to take a 34-7 halftime lead over the seventh-seeded Eagles (11-12), who reached the state semifinals every year from 2018-2020.

Point guard Mariah Jones-Bey continued to pace Pikesville with 16 points. The freshman, who earned her starting spot late in the season, has scored 63 points in three playoff games with clutch performances in much tougher wins over No. 11 Loch Raven and Francis Scott Key.

Junior guard Bree Taylor added 11 points for second seed Pikesville, which will play Patterson Mill in the state semifinals. The Huskies secured a 26-9 halftime lead to earn their first state semifinal berth since 2017 when the Bel Air school won a third state crown in four seasons.

Kiley Wilheim posted 15 points and 12 rebounds and Zoe Valan added a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds for Patterson Mill (15-11).

The Foresters led wire-to-wire Friday, securing their fifth state semifinal berth. The Baltimore City school will play Western Maryland’s Mountain Ridge in a state semifinal, Tuesday or Wednesday.

With no seniors in the starting rotation, Forest Park has been a work in progress this season.

“I’m very surprised,” said Foresters junior post Chaniya Taylor, who posted a game-high 18 points.

“Everybody didn’t understand each other at first, but I think we’re starting to get to that point,” said Forest Park junior guard/forward Aliyah Carroll. “We’ve worked hard enough to get where we’re at now.”

The Foresters led 11-2 after one, and 20-6 at halftime on Boonsboro, making its first state quarterfinal appearance. They scored the first 9 points in the third quarter en route to a 31-10 advantage after three.

Dunn was impressed with his squad’s defensive effort Friday.

“I didn’t have a lot of information on Boonsboro, except they were disciplined,” said Dunn. “To keep them 16 points is quite an accomplishment.”

Once an afterthought in Baltimore City girls basketball circles, Forest Park has crept into blueblood status. The Foresters defeated reigning Class 4A state champ Western this season.

It’s perseverance. As we’ve gotten better student athletes, the culture started changing,” said Dunn, who’s also the school’s athletic director. “When the culture changes, athletics come with it. This is a school kids want to come to.

“I think we get a bad rap,” said Carroll. “We want to prove to everybody we’re that team.”

The Foresters will first have to advance to a state final, something they haven’t done. If Forest Park gets that historic first state semifinal win, the next mountain will be the winner of Pikesville/Patterson Mill or CMIT North in the state final next weekend at the University of Maryland.

“We’re confident we’re going to play hard,” said Dunn. “If you play hard, good things will happen.”

“We’re coming for that trophy,” said Taylor. “I think we can do it.”

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