The Forrest Lady Rockets etched a new chapter in their basketball legacy Thursday night at Eagleville in the District 9-A Championship game versus Middle Tennessee Christian School, winning their fifth consecutive tournament title in ultra dramatic fashion 56-55.
The rivalry between the two schools has been as heated as any in the mid-state over the past three seasons with each game a battle. During the three year span, MTCS had not beaten the Lady Rockets, but were inching close and closer to getting over the hump.
The Lady Cougars were extremely focused from the start, jumping out in front 8-3. Taylour Allen came off the bench for Forrest, doing what she does best, playing intense defense. Allen stole the ball and fed to Beth Hawn for an easy layup to make it 8-5.
Katie Dunn hit a three-pointer, making it 11-5 and forcing a Forrest timeout.
Forrest head coach Jeremy Jean inserted sophomore guard Christina Curtner into the lineup for some offensive punch and Curtner immediately sparked the Lady Rockets, scoring on a driving lay-up after stealing the ball.
Trailing 11-7 after the first quarter, The Lady Rockets found their rhythm to begin the second with Curtner playing a huge role as Forrest went on a 7-2 run, taking the lead at 14-13.
Curtner would score nine points in the period as Forrest pushed ahead by four points 23-19 at the half.
Ex Lady Rocket Alex Martin drained a long three-pointer to begin the third quarter and after a Forrest turnover, Julia Howard scored for MTCS, giving them the lead 24-23.
Megan Porter regained the lead for the Lady Rockets on a rebound and follow and after an MTCS miss, Thea Ledbetter got the rebound and found Summer Waggoner over the top for a breakaway lay-in.
Porter scored again after another Lady Cougar brick, making it 29-24 Lady Rockets.
Ledbetter gave Forrest a 32-24 lead when she canned a three-bomb.
Forrest would hold the lead at the end of the third quarter, 38-35.
The Lady Rockets came out in the fourth quarter, looking to put the game away and almost did, leading by eleven with four and a half minutes to go.
The gusty and determined Lady Cougar squad would not quit, coming all the way back from oblivion with just eight seconds left in the game.
Dunn drained one of the biggest single shots in her school's basketball history, coolly raining down a rainbow three-pointer from the top of the circle, tying the classic at 55.
MTCS had come all the way back, the entire house was rocking and it looked like the game would surely be decided by a last second shot or the game would go into overtime.
What happened next was a shock, especially to Porter.
The Lady Rockets got the ball in to Porter after the Dunn stunner and Porter moved up the right sideline, dribbling, looking for an outlet pass until she heard a whistle that signaled a foul on MTCS, and stopping the clock with 6.5 ticks remaining.
Porter said, "I was just trying to get the ball up and get it down to Summer (Waggoner) in the post for a shot, but she fouled me and I said to myself, Oh! My God, it's me."
The Lady Rockets' history is full of hardwood heroines who have looked fate in the eye and stood firm, but this spot for Porter was total pressure cooker stuff with every screaming fan on their feet, engulfed in the drama.
"I have been in situations like this before, but never this big," said Porter. "My legs were shaking, it was really nerve wracking, but I knew I had to get at least one of two."
Number thirty-five added, "Before the shot, all the girls encouraged me and when I got to the line I looked up to the radio booth where I could see my dad (Mark Porter) and he gave me a sign that really calmed me down. After it went in all I could feel was relief."
Forrest head coach Jeremy Jean, voted Coach of the Year in the district by his peers, called timeout after Porter sank the first charity shot to set his defense for the ensuing scenarios from the second attempt.
Porter's second free throw was off, but she remembered what Jean had told the team in timeout. "We have got to guard our girls after a miss, coach told us", said Porter.
After her miss, Porter took one or two steps back and then stepped in front of the MTCS ball handler, forcing her to take a misstep and the ball came out and bounded out of bounds for a turnover back to the Lady Rockets with 2.7 seconds left.
Forrest called time again and came back to bring the ball in from the sideline in front of the MTCS bench where Curtner was fouled with just 0.6 left on the clock.
MTCS could not get a shot off after two Curtner misses and the celebration began for Forrest while heartbreak set in once again for the gutty Lady Cougars.
Forrest (25-3) has now beaten the Lady Cougars (24-7) in three straight D9-A tournament title games in a row and two consecutive region title tilts.
Curtner lead the Lady Rockets in scoring with 13 points, Porter and Waggoner netted a dozen each, Bath Hawn scored 10, Bequi Bussell had 6, and Ledbetter scored 3.
The squads will be on another collision course in the Region 5-A Tournament beginning next Friday night. Forrest will host East Robertson, while the Lady Cougars entertain Houston County in satellite games before play continues back at Eagleville on Monday Feb. 23.