By Gabriel Stovall
FOREST PARK, Ga. — When Tamecia Blue smiles, she looks like a sweet, innocent, young girl next door.
But on the basketball court, the diminutive Forest Park point guard is nothing nice, if you’re an opponent who’s tasked with trying to keep her out of the paint.
Check a roster and it’ll tell you Blue is a 5-foot-5 junior. Stand next to her, and 5-foot-3 seems more accurate — and even that may be a wee-bit generous.
Height aside, the little guard plays big. And since Christal Williams — the Lady Panthers’ leading scorer — went down with a season ending knee injury halfway through the year, Blue’s importance to the three-time region champions has drastically gone up.
“Tamecia is the smallest one on our team, but she’s the engine that makes us go,” said Forest Park coach Steve Cole. “I believe in her. She knows I believe in her, and she does whatever it takes to take charge of the team when she needs to.”
That includes driving the lane in the midst of players anywhere from four inches to a whole foot taller than her, depending on the night’s opponent. She may not always score when she drives, but more times than not, she’ll draw the necessary contact to put her on the free throw line.
Just like this past Saturday against Woodland.
With the game still semi-in doubt, Blue repeatedly penetrated the lane and either got fouled or dished it off in timely fashion. The free throws she nailed down the stretch were key.
Or, she would just flat out score, like she did late in the fourth quarter as the recipient of a sweet pass from senior post player Kanisha Tharpe to set Blue up for a lay up. It was a key play in the midst of a 10-2 run that essentially put Woodland away.
All in a day’s work for a player who just wants to help her team win, and show others their error in doubting her strength due to her size.
“It’s motivation,” said Blue in reference to how she handles the doubts. “It’s a lot of motivation, because I know people think that because I’m small I can’t drive or get baskets. So it’s motivation for me to go out there and score for my team.”
On the season, Blue’s averaging a shade under 10 points per game, in addition to her 3.5 assists and 2.7 steals.
She’s hit double figures in eight of her last 14 contests since Williams’ injury, including both her games against Woodland, where she scored 18 in the 50-37 loss on January 13, and 12 in Saturday’s Region 4-AAAAA title game.
But perhaps the biggest impact she’s made on the team can’t be traced on the stat sheet.
Blue’s penetrating ability gives Forest Park’s bigs like Tharpe and Breasia McElrath room to work in the paint. It also frees up Alexis High on the perimeter. Since December 30, High’s three-point shooting has increased, as the junior has drilled 34 treys at a 40 percent clip, often as a result of Blue’s drive and kick action.
McElrath said Blue’s backcourt play — along with senior Kerry Watson — is irreplaceable.
“It’s very good, because I know I have somebody to give me the ball inside,” McElrath said. “I trust my guards because I know they see the floor before I do. I need them for me to be able to score.”
The Lady Panthers will face Coffee at home Wednesday at 6 p.m., a game rescheduled due to Monday’s inclement weather.