There was different feel in the air, a playoff type of feel Friday night in Chapel Hill as a packed house witnessed the game of the year so far in District 9A, pitting first place Forrest versus a familiar foe, the second place Moore County Raiderettes.
Five weeks ago Forrest escaped Lynchburg with a one-point win and they knew this time the Raiderettes would be coming from the south and east for revenge.
At stake was first place in the district and with a win the Lady Rockets would be one victory closer from claiming their sixth consecutive regular season league title.
Moore County was ready and up to the task as they battled Forrest for three quarters before the fifth ranked Lady Rockets lit their fourth quarter after burners, leaving the Raiderettes in their vapor trail 61-45.
"That was a really tough game," exclaimed Forrest senior point guard Taylour Allen. "Coming into it, we only beat them by one last game and we knew it was going to be rough. We knew it was going to be physically rough. They are good and they are the top contenders in our district."
Moore County had the fire early, especially Heather Vann who scored six points to spark her squad to a midway 9-2 first period lead.
Forrest's Beth Hawn showed why she is the leading candidate for Class A Miss Basketball, lifting her team on her back with 10 points during the run, including two three-pointers.
The second quarter belonged to the Raiderettes as they counter attacked, winning the second eight minutes 17-8.
Moore County's rough and tumble style of play paid off as the visitors cashed in at the free-throw line, hitting 10 of 12 in the quarter to lead by one, 26-25 at the half.
Rachel Garland scored for Moore County on the first touch of the third period, but Megan Miller matched the bucket on a left-handed lay-in off of a pretty pass from Allen.
Christina Curtner came up with a steal at the other end and fed Allen on the run for another lay-up, giving FHS a 29-28 lead.
The Raiderettes would get to within two points late in the period when Allen went to the bench with her third foul at the 2:10 mark.
The teams traded baskets to begin the final period and then traded missed shots.
Defense wins championships and a big defensive play can change a game.
Canaan Rains has sparked the Lady Rockets off the bench before and the senior did it again, swiping the rock from the Raiderettes and then nailing a jumper at the other end for a six-point lead.
Moore County's Allata Taylor kept it close, making three from the free throw line after being fouled beyond the stripe.
After the Taylor free throws, Raiderette head coach Holly White called timeout with 5:27 left in the game.
Forrest headman Jeremy Jean drew up a plan during the break and went to his bread and butter in Beth Hawn on a set play down low and she delivered once again.
At the other end, Christina Curtner stepped in for a steal and fed Hawn at the other end where she was fouled.
Hawn swished both shots.
Moore County was in trouble and they turned the ball over off of a Forrest press.
Hawn was fouled again and nailed two more free throws, giving Forrest a ten-point lead at 45-35.
The heat was on the Raiderettes and Hawn put out the fire for good, stealing the ball and sending it the other way where Adrean Jordan muscled in a bucket and was fouled with three minutes to go in the game.
Jordan drained the free throw, sticking in the dagger that Jean talks about so often.
From there it was a free throw shooting contest and the Lady Rockets delivered, making an incredible 14-15 charity shots down the stretch in the 16-point victory.
Hawn led all scorers with 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, stole the ball 4 times, and blocked 2 shots. Christina Curtner scored 14, Anna Curtner was next with 8 points, Megan Miller netted 7, Allen had 5, Jordan 3, and Rains 2.
Garland led Moore County with 13 points, Taylor scored 12, Vann finished with 8, Sarah Raby scored 6, and Kelsey Camp 3.
The Lady Rockets can clinch the 9A regular season crown with wins over MTCS on Tuesday and Cascade on Friday night. Both games are in Chapel Hill.