Lady Rockets win fifth straight

Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Photo by Anthony S. Puca Dakota Wesson from long range

It will be a Saturday that will be remembered for a long time for the fans in Chapel Hill as the Forrest Lady Rockets beat the 10th ranked Summertown Lady Eagles at their own game. "We played together and pushed them around instead of letting them push us around", said Lady Rocket senior Kalah Mathis.

In a physical battle of two state powerhouses, the Lady Rockets showed true grit and determination in defeating Summertown 65-57 inside a packed house at the Forrest High Gymnasium. The Lady Rockets have won five straight games and are finding that mid-January stride so reminiscent of last year's roll that took them straight to the State Championship.

The defending champs overcame seven turnovers in the first quarter by staying focused and never giving in to Summertown's brand of physicality. Summer Waggoner scored eight of her seventeen points in the first stanza as she banged and bruised underneath to set the tone for her home squad. Waggoner held court in the low post and when the Lady Eagles finally collapsed the defense to try to limit the damage, Bequi Bussell and Dakota Wesson made them pay the price with three point bombs at the end of the quarter to get the Lady Rockets within two points at 22-20 and send a message that this would not be another easy twenty point victory for Summertown like in early December at their place.

"Our girls did come out and play physical," Forrest head Coach Robby Reasonover said and the game changed for the Lady Rockets at the 3:56 mark of the second quarter when Blair Foster stood her ground and took a charge that fired up the Lady Rockets. On the pursuing possession with the game tied at 28, Beth Hawn bruised in a basket to give the FHS women their first lead of the night at 30-28.

"Beth played her most physical game of the year," Reasonover concluded after the contest, "she had some great minutes off the bench." When Ayla Young buried a long three pointer at the halftime buzzer, the Lady Rockets took a 35-32 lead into the locker room and had established a sense of inevitability among the faithful.

There was no quit in the Lady Eagle squad as well as they showed their great program pride in the third quarter by staying with the Lady Rockets step for step and shot for shot. The eight minutes was nip and tuck as the teams battled for every possession. Summertown finally broke through and took a two point lead at the end of the quarter, 47-45.

Old reliable, Gaby Bussell flexed her pride in the last quarter as she scored 8 of her 12 points in the crowded and dangerous low post. Summertown was in no mood to give to charity as they fought and fought to stay in the game. The teams went back and forth for much of the final stanza and then the Lady Rockets gave them the knockout punch of determination late in the stanza when Blair Foster was fouled on two consecutive possessions and buried the front end of one and ones, only to miss the back end both times and have her comrades come up with the loose ball on both occasions.

Summertown was staggered by the Lady Rockets persistence and did not score the last two and half minutes in the game and Forrest stuck the nail in the coffin to win the epic battle 65-57.

What did the victory mean to the Rockets? "It means everything, it was a really good game" Mathis said after the game.

"It means getting over the "hump", Reasonover stated, "Summertown has had our number and the win will help our confidence." He added, "It was an overall good effort." Summer Waggoner led the Lady Rocket's (13-6, 5-0) balanced scoring attack with 17, Gaby Bussell had 12, Ayla Young had 11, Blair Foster had 8 points , and Beth Hawn also had 8.

Rockets lose to Eagles 46-40, still in great shape in District.

There was a men's game in Chapel Hill also Saturday night and the two teams must have been feeling some residual aftershock from the women's game as they started out very sluggish to a low scoring first quarter that saw only 15 points scored with Summertown leading the home team 8-7.

The Rockets rebounded in the second eight minutes as the teams began to find some rhythm. Chandler Gentry had a key three pointer and Corey Shankle began to flex his muscle underneath as the Rockets jumped to a five point lead at 16-11, only to let Summertown regain some momentum near the end of the stanza and cut the lead to one point, 16-15 at the halftime break.

Gentry again nailed a three bomb to start the second half, but the Eagles came back with some tough defense that kept the Rockets on their heels. A crowded low post and a defense that was pushed out to the three point line made points hard to come by for FHS and Summertown took advantage of the strategy to force some Rocket turnovers that led to easy baskets and an Eagle, 29-26 third quarter lead.

Chase Beaulieu's three pointer to start the final quarter tied the game at 29, but the Rockets would never see a tie or the lead again in the contest. The Eagles were determined to gain a split for their program and played solid defense and made many key baskets at crunch time to win the game 46-40 and sooth the wounds of travel a little bit.

The loss left the Rockets at 9-7 on the year, but they remain undefeated (5-0) in District 9A play. The Rocket squad looks like a solid team with Shankle (18 pts.) and Brian Whitley in the low post, Beaulieu and Nick Schnaap at the forward/guard position, and Gentry handling the point guard duties.

The Rockets move into the meat of District play with seven out of their remaining eight games versus District opponents. Van Buren is one game back of the Rockets, while Cascade and Eagleville are two back.