The Forrest Rockets trailed the Richland Raiders deep into the fourth quarter Friday night in Giles County before mounting a furious comeback that fell tantalizingly short, ending in a 51-50 defeat.
Richland jumped all over Forrest early, raining down three first quarter treys en-route to a 23-11 lead after the first eight minutes.
"We definitely did not get off the bus ready to play and they punched us in the mouth," said Forrest coach Davy McClaran after the ballgame.
The Rockets trailed by as many as eleven points in the second quarter before Kyle Griffy hit a three-pointer with just under three minutes to play in the half, lighting a small fire under the visiting Forrest squad.
Forrest scored the last four points of the half on a steal that led to two free throws by Preston Pratt and a big three-point play by Ferris Perkins in the paint with 29.6 seconds left, cutting the Richland lead to six at 32-26.
Forrest was back in the game and Kyle Gugger made that statement with a three-bomb to begin the second half, trimming Richland's lead to 32-29.
Moments later, Pratt got the Rockets all the way back with a jumper in the lane, tying the contest at 36.
Two possessions later, Gugger gave the Rockets a 38-36 lead with 3:08 to play in quarter number three.
The Raiders went on to finish the quarter strong, outscoring Forrest 6-2 the rest of the way and led 42-40.
The Rockets saw the Richland lead grow back to seven at 47-40 before Kyle Anglin hit two charity shots and cored on a driving lay-up, cutting the margin to 47-44.
Both defenses tightened up and there was no scoring for about two and half minutes before Anglin scored, slicing the lead to just one point at 47-46.
After a Raider miss, Gugger scored on a put-back, giving Forrest a 48-47 lead with 1:52 left in the game.
Richland's Blayze Parson's hitting a leaping leaner in the lane to put his home squad back in the lead.
Gugger went to the line, draining the first attempt, but his second try bounced off the rim where Seth Brothers was waiting for the rebound.
Brothers went up for the follow and was fouled, sending him to the line for a crucial one and one with 50.0 seconds left. Brothers calmly drained the first attempt, but the second spun out, giving Richland the ball.
Parson's scored again for Richland, making it a 51-50 game with 26.5 seconds left, and forcing McClaran to call timeout.
The Rockets fumbled the ball around after the timeout and turned it over. They were forced to foul, sending Cameron Edwards to the line for a one and one.
Forrest called time to set up a potential game winner if Edwards missed and he did, giving the Rockets the ball.
Forrest came down court with under 10 seconds to play and went into a quick play. The ball came loose and two players scrambled to the floor and one referee called a tie-up before the buzzer sounded, but the officials converged and determined the game was over with Richland getting the 51-50 victory.
"I don't think it just comes down to one play at the end of the game," said McClaran in the postgame interview. "We had our opportunities every quarter with second and third chance opportunities right under the basket and could not convert."
"Richland is always a tough place to play and they are as good as anybody in our district," added McClaran. "We are playing up at the end of the year and that will be to our benefit. Win or lose we will play two teams (Richland and Collinwood) at the end of the year that are just as good as MTCS."
The Rockets open up District 9-A Tournament play Friday night at Eagleville. Both squads finished the season with identical 6-6 district records and have traded wins versus each other this season.
Anglin led the Rockets with 14 points, including 7-9 from the free-throw line. Seth Brothers scored 11, Gugger (10), Pratt (5), Colin Henson (4), and Perkins and Griffy had 3 points each.