By Robert Haddocks
The split second that Parkview gained control of the opening tap, coach Tony Watkins yelled, “Run it!” Guard Marissa Mandeldove pushed the ball up court and Genesis Perrymond drilled a 3-pointer. The Panthers were just getting started. But not without a stern wake-up call by Watkins.
After a brief letdown, Parkview found itself in foreign territory, trailing, 13-12. Watkins pulled his starters momentarily and the Panthers went on stunning 29-2 run to close the half and never let up in 61-28 win over South Gwinnett. The reserves triggered the outbreak, pressing the Comets and leading to 18 first-half turnovers, many of which led to immediate scores including five 3-pointers, two by Mandeldove. With her second trey three minutes into the second period, the lead swelled to 29-13 and a basket by Tolu Yerokum capped a 17-0 run in about a seven-minute span.
Looking more like piranha or pit bulls, the Panthers attack in waves, which they can do because of tremendous depth, their trademark, Watkins says. They’re a bunch of interchangeable parts and if one combination isn’t working, Watkins rolls out another. Twelve players are averaging more than 10 minutes a game and nobody is averaging more than 12 points, a tribute to their depth – and unselfishness, the coach said. The team has bought into Watkins’ philosophy. How couldn’t they? The Panthers are 24-0, 15-0 in Region 8-AAAAAA and their average winning margin is more than 27 points.
“It’s somebody different all the time. That’s been the key to our success,” Watkins said. “We picked up the press (Tuesday) and it’s our depth: it just wears on you. Everybody else is playing six or seven and when you can play it makes a difference.”
Everybody contributed in the onslaught that blew the game open. A 3-pointer by Makenna Povenge put Parkview back on top to stay at 15-13. Bernice McGriff didn’t score but had three steals in the first half. Autumn Sizemore sank a high-arching 3-pointer. Tatiana Wayne had a pretty spin move and floater in the lane. Mia Marshall provided the inside presence with a couple of buckets. Parkview held a flustered South Gwinnett squad to two points in the second period and led 41-15 at the half
Perrymond said the team was flat at the start, but Watkins quickly changed that, barking as he walked up and down the bench and demanded more effort from his starters. “We knew that’s what we needed to start going harder,” she said. “We said, ‘okay, we need to get into the game.’”
The Panthers – and Watkins never relented. At the start of the third quarter, Watkins passionately called for defense, yelling “hands out, hands out,” although South Gwinnett was not yet on the floor. Up 57-23 with two minutes left in the game, Watkins screamed, “Let’s go, let’s go,” urging his girls to push it. Despite typically winning in blowout fashion, the Panthers continue executing to the final buzzer, the coach said. “I’m very proud of how they’ve showed up,” he said. “It’s a great group of girls. They’re unselfish and they’re really concerned with ‘we’ rather than ‘me.’”
Because Parkview doesn’t have a big-time recruit, it has to rely on its depth and buying into the system, Watkins said. A clear sign of that is that 76 percent of their baskets are assisted, according to the coach. The Panthers, who were undefeated in the regular season last year, finish the regular season at Grayson on Friday and will open region play Tuesday. They believe they’re prepared to advance beyond the state quarterfinals, where they were ousted last season. “We just have to play our game,” Perrymond said. “We know we can do it. We just have to prove it.”
Jashawna Johnson paced South Gwinnett (13-11, 8-7) with seven points and Colette Onenda added six. Mandeldove led all scorers with 13 points and Perrymond scored 12.