Forrest advances to District 9-A Title games
by Anthony S. Puca
vs. Eagleville on year
Wartrace-"We got a win and that's what counts," Forrest Lady Rockets head coach Robby Reasonover said after his squad defeated the Eagleville Lady Eagles for the third time this season. The 58-44 victory propelled the Lady Rockets into Monday night's District Championship game versus MTCS.
"There is a lot of tradition between the two schools, a lot of schools have come and gone out of the District, but Forrest and Eagleville have remained," FHS head coach Davy McClaran said after his Rockets hung tough and beat Eagleville 51-43 at Cascade for their season sweep of the Eagles and a spot in the men's Championship game on Tuesday versus host Cascade.
The semi-final victories also guarantee a regional-satellite home game for both Forrest squads next weekend versus District 10-A opponents before the action moves to the central site in Eagleville.
Shankle pours in 28, Rockets want District Title
The Rockets started the game a little rusty and Eagleville took advantage, especially in the low post where Jay Paul Lenkner scored his team's first eight points. Forrest fell behind 12-9, before a Shankle bucket and a Nick Schnaap three-pointer put the Rockets on top 14-12. A late bucket by Eagle Aaron Alldaffer made the score 14-14 at the end of the first quarter.
Eagleville scored the second quarter's first five points to push out in front 19-14, Brian Whitley scored a low-post bucket and a foul shot to make it 19-17, and then Shankle tied the game at 19 and the Rockets would never trail again.
Shankle then took control of the contest as he scored on a beautiful dish from Chandler Gentry and again Gentry found him low and Shankle scored on a sweet reverse lay-up that beat three Eagle defenders and the Rockets led 23-19.
The Eagles would not give up as they continued to play inspired ball and cut the lead to two points. The Rockets pushed it back to seven after Dominique Johnson was fouled on a three-point shot and drained all three penalty shots. Eagleville would not go away and cut the lead to four at 30-26 at the end of the first half.
The third quarter was a defensive fight and the Rockets sent in senior Dominique Johnson who was all over the court in the period as he made some crucial defensive plays on hustle and determination and scored a late bucket to give Forrest a 41-34 lead by quarter's end.
The Rockets earned the regular season title by playing tough ball at crunch time and this game would be no different as the Rockets answered every Eagle comeback attempt with a counter-barrage of their own. The last period was very physical as every rebound was contested, the defense on both sides was tight, and each and every point would be hard earned.
Eagleville would never get closer than seven points and the Rockets sealed the game from the foul stripe in the game's waning moments. Shankle, Schnaap, Gentry, and Chase Beaulieu all hit key foul shots down the stretch to seal the deal at 51-43 and send the Rockets (18-9) to the District final.
Asked about his MVP type performance in the game, Shankle adamantly responded, "I would rather have the District Title more than any of that other stuff."
"He led our team well, this is what he is supposed to do" McClaran said of Shankle after the game, "in fact, all of our seniors showed great leadership in the game and in practice all week."
Mathis sparks Lady Rockets off bench
"I like coming off the bench", Lady Rocket lone senior and 2006 All-State Tournament team member Kalah Mathis said after she gave the FHS women the spark they needed in their semi-final win versus Eagleville.
"We played good, but we did not play up to our potential," Mathis stated after a performance that included 11 points, 6 rebounds, a steal, and a much needed shot of adrenaline for the Lady Rockets.
Mathis was inserted into the game mid-way thru the first period with the Lady Rockets leading 6-4 and looking a bit rusty and undercharged. She went on to score six of her team's next eight points to give them a 14-9 first quarter lead.
Mathis' first quarter flash boosted her running mates at the beginning of the second period as they pushed the lead to twelve by the end of the half at 34-22. Ayla Young caught fire, scoring nine points in the quarter, Gaby Bussell scored 5 points and had two steals, and Mathis had a three-point play.
After the half, the Lady Rockets went to their trio of low post players and began the wearing down process that has been a familiar theme this year. Summer Waggoner netted four points, freshman Beth Hawn also had four, and Bussell and Mathis controlled the boards. The women from Chapel Hill led 45-32 at the end of the quarter and the Lady Eagles were trying to stop the onslaught by shuffling in players, to no avail.
The Lady Rockets easily held off Eagleville in the final period as Reasonover used his combination bench brigade to put the finishing touches on the 58-44 semi-final victory.
The mark of championship teams is the ability to win games even when not in top form and the Lady Rockets did it with great bench play and timely baskets and defensive stands at the perfect moments. Asked about the stellar bench play from Mathis, Hawn, Shelby Stinnett, and Amanda Daughrity. Reasonover stated, "That is what it takes to make a run and our bench came in and gave us great minutes."