Forrest head coach Davy McClaran said after the game, "We all know what kind of player Pope can be when he gets hot. We have just been waiting eleven games for him to get there. It was nice to see him finally get in the rhythm and knock some down."
McClaran added, "It was a big key, he was definitely the sparkplug."
Pope was the catalyst for the Rocket comeback, draining three treys in the quarter as Forrest outscored the Wildcats 16-5 in the period to take a one-point lead at 33-32 into the final eight minutes of play.
Pope began the fourth quarter, draining another deep three-bomb on their first possession to stretch the Forrest lead to 36-32.
Wayne County's Micah Brantley hit both ends of a one and one opportunity to cut the lead back to two points before Pope scored on a rebound and put-back and after a Wildcat missed shot, Pope went downtown again to make it a 41-34 ballgame, forcing a Wayne County timeout.
After the stoppage, 2010 Class A Mr. Football Tyler Rice scored five out of the next seven points in the game to cut the FHS lead to 43-39.
Rice would end up with 19 points in the ballgame, including an 8-11 effort from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
Pope hit a short jumper in the lane at the other end before Rice was fouled on a three-point shot and the senior Cat made two of the three attempts at the free throw line.
With 3:13 remaining in the ballgame, Rice hit one of two from the charity stripe, slicing Forrest's lead to three points at 45-42.
Rice grabbed the rebound on his missed second free throw attempt and fed Peyton Mathis, who was fouled going to the hoop.
Mathis made one of two from the line and the Rocket lead was now 45-43.
Forrest's Corey Bishop stopped the bleeding with a bucket at the other end, but Rice got both points back with another trip to the free throw line with 1:40 remaining in the game.
Forrest missed at the other end and Wayne County called timeout with 1:15 left.
The Wildcats could not convert after the timeout and Bishop was fouled, sending the senior to the line for a crucial one and one situation with 38.4 seconds left in the contest.
Bishop calmly nailed both foul shots, giving the Rockets a four-point lead at 49-45.
Rice drove the lane at the other end and the Forrest defense collapsed to him, but Rice dished to Hagen Edwards in the corner where he drained a long trey to cut the Forrest lead to a single point at 49-48.
Wayne County called timeout after the Edwards 3-pointer with 27.5 seconds remaining in the game.
McClaran had a trick play up his sleeve coming out of the timeout as Kyle Gugger hid in the corner, out of the sight of the Wildcats.
Some of the Wayne County fans saw Gugger hiding in the corner and began to scream at the players on the court as to Gugger's whereabouts, but it was too late as the over the top inbounds pass from Dane Leonard found Gugger near the basket where he laid it up and in for a score with under 30 seconds left, making it a 51-38 ballgame.
"It was bend down and pray they don't see you," said McClaran after the game. "It happened to me before in a middle school game this year. It was luck, that's what it is."
The Wildcats, shaken by the play missed at the other end and had to foul Gugger on the rebound.
Gugger stood at the free throw for a one and one with 13.1 seconds left, but his first attempt spun out, giving Wayne County one last shot to tie, but the last second heave was no good and the Rockets survived 51-48.
The Rockets improved to 9-2 on the season with the win over the Wildcats, who fell to 7-4.
The two squads are 2-2 versus each other in the Christmas Classic that has been held in Waynesboro since 2007.
McClaran said about the win over the Wildcats, "This is a big win for us. This is a tough environment against a really good team that is coming into their own. We will take this win and get out of here quick."
Gugger, who was double-teamed most of the night finished with 11 points, Bishop had five, Dane Leonard ended up with 4, Justin McCord netted one trey, and Zach Ray scored 2 points for the Rockets, who play Collinwood today at 4:30 p.m.
Brantley had 10 points for the Wildcats, Justin Melton scored seven, Edwards 6, Stephen Bruce Beckham had four, and Mathis ended up with 2 points.