(Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca)
This time, Forrest head coach Jeremy Jean's squad had no intentions of watching another team hoist the region title plaque for postgame photographs as the Chapel Hill hardwood heroines seized the moment by turning in an unforgettable performance in a rock solid 72-57 win over the Raiderettes in the Region 5-A title game at Community Wednesday night.
Jean said after the game, "They played tonight to win the game. They wanted to come out and win it and when we play that way, good things happen."
Forrest was in control from the start and every time Moore County would gut up a comeback, the Lady Rockets would answer, especially in the fourth quarter when they scored an incredible 33 points to seal the deal.
With the win, Forrest (25-8) gets to host a state sectional game for the fifth time in six years and their opponent will be the top ranked Wayne County Lady Wildcats (26-3), who lost to Loretto 42-38 in the 6-A championship contest at Mt. Pleasant.
Forrest is unbeaten at home in sectional games during the span with wins over the Lady Cats in 2008-2009, Santa Fe in 2007-2008, Moore County in 2006-2007, and over Richland in their 2005-2006 championship season.
"Playing at home is the key to sub-state," said Jean. "It is very hard and it doesn't happen very often that you can go on the road and win. I talked to coach Byrd (Wayne County) and to coach Tipps from Loretto and we all agreed that all four teams could beat anybody on any given night. If we play this way Saturday night, we will have a chance to win."
It was apparent from the start of the contest Wednesday night in Unionville that the Lady Rockets were not going to be intimidated by Moore County as they came out in an aggressive attack mode on offense and pursued the Raiderettes like hungry dogs on defense.
Curtner said after the game, "We believe in ourselves and we think we are the better team from top to bottom. We came in from the get go believing we were going to win. We believed that in August and we believed that at tournament time and we did."
After two free throws by Moore County guard Kelsey Camp, Curtner went downtown for a three-pointer.
Stunned, Moore County turned the ball over and Hannah Phifer made them pay with a mid-range jumper to put Forrest up 7-2.
Moore County would eventually come back to tie the game at 9-9 before Christina Curtner scored six straight points for a 15-9 FHS lead.
Garland drained a trey in the opening minute of the second quarter and would hit another later on to cut the Forrest lead to 20-18.
After two missed foul shots by Forrest, Moore County tied the game at 20 on two free throws by Sarah Raby at the 4:35 mark before Miller silenced the Lynchburg crowd with a three-pointer of her own.
Miller's three sparked a 9-0 Forrest run that would continue deep into the period before Garland notched three points to end the half with Forrest leading 29-23.
The battle tested Raiderettes came out with an attitude after the intermission, scoring six straight points to tie the game at 29, and one touch later, Raby gave Moore County a 31-29 lead with two free throws.
Patton re-knotted the contest from the charity stripe and then stole the ball from Moore County and gave it up to Anna Curtner, who rained down a three-bomb to give the lead back to Forrest at 34-31.
Forrest would build the lead to six points, but Moore County gutted it up and came back again to trail by a single point at 39-38, entering the final eight minutes of the game.
After a Moore County turnover, Anna Curtner threw down another long bomb, but Garland responded in kind to make it a 45-43 ballgame.
The tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife and Miller took a huge hack with an ice-cold three-pointer for a five-point FHS lead.
A Garland miss led to two Christina Curtner free throws and after another Moore County missed shot, Miller landed a missile threw the cords, giving Forrest a ten-point lead at 53-43 with 5:24 remaining in the contest.
Once again, Garland would lead the Raiderettes back with a three-pointer that cut the FHS lead to 56-52 with three minutes to go.
After Garland was whistled with her fourth foul, Anna Curtner hit both ends of a one and one and moments later, Garland fouled out with 1:56 left.
An offensive foul call on Miller gave the ball back to Moore County, but Raby was called for a foul, scrambling for a loose ball under the basket and Raiderette coach Steve Slaton blew his top and was whistled for a crucial technical foul with 1:23 remaining in the game.
Christina Curtner calmly drained both free throws and Patton followed with two more after another foul on Moore County, giving Forrest a 64-52 lead.
"It is always good to play at home," said Curtner. "We have a great fan section, we are familiar with them, and we will be ready."
Forrest was 20-23 from the free throw line in the game and hit ten three-pointers in the contest.
Garland led Moore County with 21 points (3 treys), Erin Thomas had four three's for 12 points, Raby ended up with 10, Heather Vann scored 7, Camp netted 4, Erica Limbaugh scored 2 points, and Cassie Kight ended up with 1 point.