For the five senior players on the Forrest basketball team, four years of hard work and dedication to the program came to an abrupt end Saturday night in Chapel Hill as the Rockets free-fell to earth in a 63- 39 loss to Clarksville Academy.
It was the second year in a row that the Cougars (24-5) have eliminated Forrest (12-18) in the first round of the Region 5-A Tournament.
Clarksville Academy's two brothers, Malcolm and Martin Smith combined for 49 points in the ballgame, dominating play at both ends of the court. Martin Smith poured in a game high 28 points, blocked four shots, and pulled down 8 rebounds. Malcolm Smith scored 21 points and was a physical force the Rockets could not contain under the boards, pulling down 10 rebounds.
Forrest head coach Davy McClaran did all he could do, trying to prepare his gutsy squad for the physicality of the Cougars and said after the game, "There was no way for us to prepare for their athleticism, knowing we don't have an answer for their size. We did all we could do to stop them. We sagged, we doubled down, we trapped, we tried everything."
"If they shoot like they did tonight, they will go a long way in the tournament," McClaran added.
The Rockets were going to defend their home court anyway they could and did, staying in the ballgame for three quarters before losing steam in a fourth quarter in which they were outscored 24-11.
Ferris Perkins scored off the opening tip for the Rockets before Martin Smith scored to tie it at 2. Preston Pratt fired up the home crowd, draining one of his patented three-pointers he has specialized in during his career with Forrest, giving his team a 5-2 lead.
The Smith's would push the Cougars ahead 6-5 before another FHS senior, Seth Brothers scored underneath, making it 7-6. On Clarksville's next touch, senior Colin Henson stepped in front of a pass and out ran the field for an easy lay-up and a three-point Forrest lead.
The game would become rough and the Smith Bros took advantage, scoring seven straight in the paint to take a 13-9 lead.
Brothers stopped the run with a basket off of an interior pass from fellow senior Kyle Griffy. Brothers was fouled on the play and made the foul shot to trail by just one point, but the Cougars ended the quarter on a 4-0 run to lead 17-12 after the first eight minutes.
Perkins had the unenviable task of playing in the blocks with the Smith brothers and shined in the second quarter, scoring all 7 of the Rockets' points in the period as Forrest stayed close 26-19 after two periods.
Clarksville came out in the fourth, building a 15-point lead early before senior Kyle Anglin nailed a three-pointer, slightly trimming the lead back to a dozen.
The Cougars turned it on high and put the game away with just over six minutes to play, going on a 9-0 run to lead 54-33.
The five Forrest seniors stayed on the floor together to the end and McClaran said after the game, "I was not going to take them out. They all deserved to be on the floor until the end. This has really been one of those peak and valley seasons, but it has been a good one."
Perkins led the Rockets with 11 points, Henson and Pratt had 8 apiece, Brothers scored 7, and Anglin finished with 5.