Lady Rockets win eighth straight, Rockets drop into tie in District
by Anthony S. Puca
The Forrest Lady Rockets are just rolling along and their latest victim was the Cascade Lady Champions who they defeated Tuesday night in Chapel Hill, 61-33. With the win, the defending Class A State Champions are now 16-6 and 7-0 in District play with only five regular season games remaining.
The Rockets lost their rivalry game versus the Champions from Wartrace, 60-58 after mounting a furious fourth comeback that just fell short. The Rockets, 11-8 and 7-1 in District 9 are now tied with Van Buren for first place.
During their winning streak, the Lady Rockets have been in the habit of starting games with a zeal that overpowers opponents and leaves them searching for answers. It was a no different in this contest as the Chapel Hill women threw a defensive blanket on Cascade and created turnover after turnover in the first quarter which led to a plethora of easy baskets and a whopping 22-5 lead after the first eight minutes.
The game was never in doubt as the Lady Rockets led 36-17 at the half and won by twenty eight points as head Coach Robby Reasonover rotated his troops throughout the entire game and never lost a beat.
"We are in the same place as we were last year," Reasonover said, we are doing what we need to do to prepare for the District Tournament and we do not overlook any team."
The starting five for the Lady Rockets seem to be clicking on all cylinders and they play with poise and passion on both ends of the floor. Their defensive pressure is overwhelming as they swarm all over opposing guards and take them completely out of their rhythm and game plan.
Ayla Young, Dakota Wesson, and Blair Foster apply unrelenting pressure in the backcourt and Gaby Bussell and Summer Waggoner finish plays off and clean the glass in the frontcourt.
If this isn't scary enough for opponents, the Rockets sport one of the deepest and most talented benches in the entire state and when they enter the game, the Lady Rockets barely miss a beat. Senior Kayla Mathis, Alyssa Gugger, and freshman Beth Hawn, who has really come into her own, all come in and do a great job in relief of Bussell and Waggoner in keeping them fresh.
Young sharp-shooters such as Amanda Daughrity, Shelby Stinnett, Megan Porter, and Bequi Bussell fly off the bench and hurt teams with their long range shooting and play the swarming defense that is so inherent to the Lady Rocket make-up.
The Lady Rockets moved into the ninth spot in the latest Associated Press rankings on Monday after not appearing in the poll all year and it seems the pundits and poll voters need some kind of affirmation week after week that last year's championship was no fluke.
Rockets fall behind early, Champions hang on to win
The pre-season favorite, Cascade Champions played up to that billing Tuesday night in Chapel Hill and seem to be hitting their stride under fourth year head Coach Charlie Pope. " We have the utmost respect for Forrest," Pope said after the game, and it was a good feeling to beat a well coached team and it is always tough to get out of here with a win."
Forrest fell behind early in the contest and tried to play catch-up the entire night versus the Champions who answered the call every time the Rockets would creep closer. Cascade led at the end of the first quarter 17-11 and led by three at the half, 26-23.
Corey Shankle, who did not play versus Boyd Christian because of a hand injury and did not seem to shake off the rust until the second half and even then seemed to be hurting more than he wanted to show.
The worst quarter for the Rockets was the third period as they could not find the hole and Cascade took advantage of every opportunity in stretching their lead to fourteen points, 45-31.
Coach Davy McClaran's squad never quits and even after falling behind by twelve points just two minutes into the final period, the Rockets turned up the heat dial on defense and created several turnovers to go on an 12 point run to tie the game at 51 when Shankle stepped in front of a Cascade player and went the length of the floor for a lay-up at 1:51 in the final stanza.
The biggest play of the contest took place after a Cascade timeout when the Champions found Levi Bain on the left wing and he drained a three-bomb and was fouled in the process. Bain converted the four-point play and Forrest scrambled to find a way to comeback in the contest and fell just short as time expired.
"It was a tough loss, "McClaran said after the game, we played a great fourth quarter, but we need to play with that intensity for all four quarters."
"Cascade had a great game plan," McClaran added. "They switched up defenses on us and we did not adjust very well. They are a very well coached team and we would love to see them again."