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Unbeaten Panthers shocked

LILBURN -- No one could leave.

Except Marietta.

The crowd in the Parkview gym stood, mostly silent. No clapping. Just silence with a muffled cheering. The end could not be here. This team had not lost all season. It was the No. 1 seed and Region 8-AAAAA girls basketball champion.

But none of that mattered when Courtney Sprague's 3 fell in with four seconds to play. The 3 put Marietta up 44-43 and ended Parkview's season.

Even the Marietta players didn't know which way to run after the perfunctory handshake. But their coach directed them up and out of the gym. Parkview senior Lauren Coleman crouched at midcourt, her face buried in her hands. Eventually the Panther players left and the crowd slowly filtered out.

"Good players are going to make good plays at crucial times," Parkview head coach Mike McCoy said. "They did what they needed to do to get the win.

"There were opportunities for us to get the win."

Until the final minutes Parkview took them. Tied entering the fourth quarter, the Panthers scored the first eight points with 3s each from Katie Carroll and Coleman. The two Parkview offensive leaders scored all the fourth-quarter points. Their efforts came up just short when Carroll missed a pair of free throws and Coleman missed the first of a potential two in the closing minute.

Coleman scored 16 with Carroll just behind with 15 to lead Parkview. No other Panther had more than five.

"We just didn't get it done tonight," McCoy said. "It hurts. It just didn't happen."

Parkview led by seven at halftime after a physical first half in which the Panthers slowed the attack of the Devils' big post players. But foul trouble and size took a toll in the third quarter. Marietta repeatedly lobbed the ball into its posts and Keyona Hayes and Brianna Thomas scorched Parkview for 18 points in the quarter. Hayes ended the game with 18 points and Hamby followed with 15.

"They played tough tonight," Marietta head coach Ken Sprague said of his posts. "We hadn't been playing tough. Tonight we had to play tough mentally and physically."

The height matchup proved too much for Parkview, especially when the fouls built up.

"That matchup is not one we've had to face a lot," McCoy said. "It hurt us."

What hurt most was the end. It showed in the silence and disbelief.

"I told them after the game I'd still rather be in our locker room than any in the state," McCoy said. "I'll hopefully get another opportunity to get to the state tournament. But for those seniors, most of them, this is the last basketball game they'll play. We'll miss them."