By Anthony S. Puca
Forrest Middle School broke the seal on the 2008-2009 hoops season in Marshall County this week, starting with a split of games in Summertown on Monday, followed by a trip to Whitthorne Middle School to face the always athletic and tough squads from Columbia.
The boys won handily Monday in Summertown, while the girls lost.
On Tuesday, both squads dropped their games at Whitthorne, but both coaches found many positives in the efforts.
The Lady Rockets jumped out to an early 5-0 lead in their contest before the Lady Tigers showcased their athleticism to pull away for a 14-10 first quarter lead.
Forrest fell behind by eight points early in the second period, but they fought back to a four-point deficit at 18-14 on a put-back bucket by Mandi Conley and a steal and fast break score by Candace Daughrity.
Whitthorne's Cokie Young, who would finish with a game high 20 points, scored six of the last nine points for the Lady Lions in the half and the visitors were in a 27-14 hole at the halftime buzzer.
Whitthorne turned up the heat to high in the third quarter and pulled out to a 15-point lead after three at, 38-23.
Scarlet Roberson, the high scorer in the game for the Lady Rockets with 13 points, buried a three-bomb to begin the fourth period comeback attempt for Forrest.
Hannah Phifer drained a nice jumper to offset a Whitthorne bucket and after a miss by the home squad, Phifer made one of two free throws to cut the lead to eleven.
Conley also made one of two from the line after another unsuccessful trip down the floor by the Lady Lions to cut the lead to ten at 40-30.
Roberson's jumper from the top of the key after a Whitthorne turnover made it an eight-point lead at 40-32, forcing a Lady Lion's timeout with 3:47 left in the ballgame.
The Lady Lions came out of the timeout and scored eight out the last ten points in the game and won, 48-34.
First year Forrest head coach and Lady Rocket alum Jessica Inlow said after the game, "These two games have been an experience. The effort from the girls has been there both nights. I could not ask for a better effort. They are all definitely coachable and enthusiastic about playing. Everything that is wrong right now, we can fix. I am loving this and enjoying it."
The Rockets, spurred by their big win in Summertown on Monday, came out Tuesday and played the Tigers neck and neck for most of the contest.
Forrest's Zach Horvath was a man on a mission in the first period, scoring seven of Rockets' nine markers in the quarter with Mark Pope scoring one bucket on a jumper for a 9-8 Rocket lead after the first six minutes.
The score went back and forth for half of the second quarter until the Tigers opened up a five-point margin late, leading 20-15 at the half.
Pope hit another jumper to begin the second half to cut the lead to three points, but Whitthorne managed to widen their lead to as much as ten points before the Rockets cut it to seven with late buckets by Horvath and Tyler Rumley made it a seven point deficit at 35-28 after three periods.
Rumley scored the initial basket of the fourth quarter to make it 35-30. Pope fouled out with 4:28 left and the Tigers built an eight-point lead with less than three minutes to play.
Baskets by Horvath and Brooks Lamb cut the lead to six with under a minute to go, but Whitthorne managed to withstand the late charge to win their season opener, 52-42.
Robbie Reasonover, who took over the team after his resignation from the high school girls squad, said after the game, "I am pleased with the team's effort both games. Tonight we played a team with better athleticism than us and hung in there. Not bad for just two weeks of practice. I am looking forward to the rest of the year."