Advancing past the second round of the state tournament has proven to be a difficult task for the Forest Hills women’s basketball program over the last decade.However, this year’s squad, led by high-scoring junior guards Ishemia “Sha” Bivens and Tonjai Everett, plan to build on last season’s Rocky River Conference tournament title and first-round state playoff victory.The Yellow Jackets are seeking to advance to the third round of the state playoffs for the first time since former Forest Hills and Wingate star Tanetra Barrett led the Jackets to a sectional runner-up finish in 2003.Bivens and Everett are in their third-year on the varsity squad and have seen the program progress each year under head coach Eddie Rivers. The Yellow Jackets finished 10-14 their freshmen season, which ended with a 94-88 overtime loss to top-seeded North Lincoln in the opening round of the state tournament.Last season, the Jackets finished 19-10 in a year culminated by winning the Rocky River Conference tournament title over an undefeated North Stanly squad, the team’s first win over the Comets since 2008. Forest Hills went on to defeat Lexington in the first round of the state playoffs in Marshville before dropping a tight road game to eventual sectional champ North Surry.The Lady Jackets basketball team built momentum this summer around the conference tournament title.“That win (over North Stanly) gave us confidence and a push going into the playoffs,” Bivens said.The team has followed last year’s victory with a 48-29 win over North Stanly this season on Dec. 7, making it two straight wins over the team that had a firm grip on the top spot in the Rocky River girls’ basketball standings over the last several years. “We knew it would be important to beat North Stanly this year and win the regular season in order to get a chance to host more playoff games,” Rivers said. “The playoff win over Lexington last year was exciting, and we want the chance to be able to host a second and third round game here in our gym.”Opponents know they have to prepare for Bivens and Everett. Each player averaged 18 points per game last season, and both are nearing the 1,000-point plateau. Everett had 977 points and Bivens, 927 points, following the Dec. 11 game against Parkwood. But Rivers says the team has bought into unselfish play, and they’re willing to fulfill their role to help the team win.Four-year starting point guard Shuntel Kirkland and fellow senior captain Kimberly Rivers have helped to provide leadership and experience. Kirkland helps push the pace on offense, while Rivers is a defensive and rebounding presence off the bench.As the team got off to a 3-1 start, the Forest Hills student body has responded with strong support.“The sixth man energizes us and helps keep us going,” Everett said.Kimberly Rivers said, “I love Forest Hills. With our small population size, everybody here knows who each of us are, and everyone is so supportive of our team. We have good chemistry on our team and that seems to carry throughout the entire school.”Rivers has been a mainstay on the varsity team during her four years and was awarded the NCHSAA Heart of a Champion award for sportsmanship and integrity last year. She was one of only 20 recipients statewide.She plans to attend UNC Chapel Hill after graduation.Bivens and Everett will return for their senior seasons next year, and each has their eye on winning a conference championship and securing a college basketball scholarship. Forest Hills has had recent girls basketball players go on to compete in college. The group includes Barrett at Wingate and Jennifer Hailey, currently at UNC Charlotte.