Cougars outlast Rockets for 9-A title
In the biggest game of the year, the Forrest Rockets could not find their range from three-point land or at foul line and it cost them the District 9-A title, falling to host MTCS 49-42 in overtime.
First-year Forrest head coach Wes Hobbs, who was named District 9-A Coach of the Year said after the contest, "We tried to stay on the positives in there after the game, because the good thing about basketball is as long as the ball is still bouncing, we still have a chance."
Hobbs added, "We still set ourselves up pretty good, hosting a region game next week. So as tough as this one is to take, they played hard, but things just didn't fall for us tonight. We had our opportunities."
It was the first district tournament hosted by MTCS in 32 years and the sixth-seeded Cougars made the most of it, defeating the number one, two, and three seeds in their quest for their first-ever tournament title.
The Rockets started quick, jumping out to a 15-9 first-quarter lead, but foul trouble began to mount for Forrest and it helped with the Cougars' second quarter comeback.
After a Lucas Pruitt put-back early in the second quarter made it 17-11 Forrest, district tournament MVP Derrick Spears hit back-to-back baskets to make it a two-point ballgame.
Tyler Rumley scored on a three-point play to put the Rockets back up by five at 20-15, but the Cougars mounted a charge and with 1:33 remaining in the first half, Micah Farmer drilled a three-pointer to give MTCS their first lead of the game at 21-20.
Rumley gave the lead right back to the Rockets, but a Spears basket with 30 seconds left put the Cougars in front at the half, 23-22.
In the third quarter the lead changed hands seven times with the Rockets holding the biggest margin at three points on two occasions at 30-27 and 34-31, only to see Spears cut the lead to a single digit at 34-33, going into the fourth period.
Zach Horvath scored eight of his team leading twelve points for Forrest in the period won by the Rockets 12-10.
For the first three and half minutes of the fourth quarter the only points scored were one free throw each by Farmer and Colby Anglin before Farmer scored in the paint to make it 36-35 Cougars.
Anglin gave the Rockets a two-point lead at 38-36 on a traditional three-point play with a drive to hoop, but MTCS' Ben Brown tied it back up with an open lay-up.
The Rockets missed at the other end, but Horvath was there for the rebound and put-back, giving the top-seeded Rockets a 40-38 lead with just over two minutes remaining.
MTCS called timeout with 2:03 left and Farmer tied the game at 40 on a set play after the stoppage.
Forrest held the ball for the last shot, but could not convert on two attempts as time ran out, sending the title tilt to overtime.
The Rockets went ice cold in extra time, scoring just two points as they watched the Cougars score nine, including a 7-8 free throw shooting exhibition by Spears and Farmer down the stretch.
Spears went 4-4 from the line and had the only field goal for the Cougars in overtime, while Farmer, who struggled from the free throw line earlier in the game, nailed three of four when it counted.
"They did a good job of taking care of the basketball at the end and finishing out the game," said Hobbs. "They made the big plays and we didn't and that was the difference in the game."
Farmer led all scorers in the contest with 22 points, Spears ended up with 18, Brown finished with 5, and Ivey Starling netted 4 for MTCS (15-14).
Rumley scored eight points for Forrest (23-8), Anglin finished with seven, Mark Pope had a half dozen, Ray scored 4, Marshall Hunter had a lone trey, and Pruitt scored two.
The Rockets now have to endure an eight-day layoff before they host Jo Byrns (13-11) in the Region 5-A opener on Feb. 25. at 7:00 p.m. in Chapel Hill.