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Unbeaten Parkview prepares for state opener

File Photo Parkview's Marissa Mandeldove drives the ball to the basket during a game earlier this season against Riverdale.

File Photo Parkview's Marissa Mandeldove drives the ball to the basket during a game earlier this season against Riverdale.

Maybe it seems bigger because it's the same record.

Maybe because it was just two years ago.

But the Parkview girls were 28-0 in 2009-10 and suffered a stunning first-round upset in the Class AAAAA state playoffs.

The Panthers are once again 28-0. They've won every game this season with a combination of defensive tenacity and resilience. They are outscoring their opponents by an average of 58-33. They haven't allowed more than 46 points in a game and have held all but five teams under 40.

Nine teams this season haven't cracked the 30-point mark against Parkview, which has used a deep bench to persevere with a full-court press.

"Everybody plays more defense at the end of the year," said head coach Tony Watkins, who has more than 600 wins to his name and was lured to the program to take over when another veteran, Mike McCoy, left last season. "It's a lot about matchups. A lot of times you might have the best team, but might not match up in that one-game setting. We just have to do the best we can."

Parkview, as well as anyone, knows undefeated doesn't guarantee anything in the state tournament.

"We've been stressing that our opponent is ourselves," Watkins said. "We've got to be mentally tough."

The Region 8-AAAAA championship game against Brookwood was one of the very few times Parkview has been behind at the half. The Panthers, ranked No. 2 in the state, won 53-37.

"They need to get this bug-a-boo off their back about getting that first win at state," Watkins said.

Parkview, which has qualified for state the last five years and won the title in 2003, also was ousted in the tournament opener last year.

"But we've also gotta go in there and be loose," Watkins said. "Duluth is plenty good. They can beat us. They've got three kids over six feet tall. They're athletic and strong and played a tough schedule."

Most of what Duluth does runs through its 6-3 sophomore center Katie Powell. But Powell is questionable after sustaining a concussion in the region tournament.

"We're going to have to prepare like she's going to be there," Watkins said. "She's a tough matchup for anyone.

"I can't see us changing too much. We're so aggressive on the press, sometimes we can't do the scheming things."

Region 8 wasn't nearly as strong as Region 7 this season. But Parkview played some very good teams early on, including a trip to Spartanburg, S.C., for the Upward Classic which featured some of the Palmetto State's best teams. Two of the teams Parkview beat are 23-2 this season.

"Duluth is probably as good as anyone we've played," Watkins said. "They definitely played a tougher schedule. But it's at our place and we're excited."

Parkview was running as many as 18 players out in a game during the first half of the season. That number has been cut down to nine or 10 lately, but the Panthers remain a deep team.

"We still try to stress that No. 1 to No. 20, everybody's got a role," Watkins said.

Senior Erika Joseph leads the team with 12 points and 11 rebounds per game. She and fellow senior Helena Pouengue are both finalists for the Atlanta Tip-Off Club scholarship.

Junior Marissa Mandeldove is averaging 10 points and five assists per game, while sophomore Genesis Perrymond is just shy of a double-digit point average of 9.5. The Panthers also get regular contributions from senior A.J. Jefferson and a handful of freshmen -- Victoria Harris, Tatiana Wayne, Makenna Pouengue, Bernice McGriff and Kristin Telford.

Parkview also overcame the loss of 6-2 junior post Mia Marshall, who tore her ACL, and having another returning starter opt not to play right before the season started.

"We're getting it done and we're getting it done without getting the ball in the basket," Watkins said. "They're great kids. They get along so well, which is what makes it so enjoyable."