Pope wins it for Rockets
Mark Pope made the most of senior night Tuesday in Chapel Hill, pouring in a game-high 22 points, including the game winning basket with 9.4 seconds remaining in the contest to lift the Rockets to a 62-60 win over Fayetteville.
"Coach wanted me to take it one on one, so I did," said Pope. "I was just looking to score and finish, or get the foul and I got both."
Forrest squandered a seven-point fourth quarter lead before needing Pope's late heroics to capture the all-important win for the Rockets that kept them in the thick of the chase for a first-round home game in the upcoming District 9-A Tournament.
Forrest (15-9, 6-6) can finish in third place with wins in its last two league games at Community (10-13, 4-9) on Friday and versus Eagleville (11-12, 5-7) at home on Saturday.
"We have to win out the rest of our district games to get to number three," said Pope. "We are determined to get that home game in front of our fans; we don't want to go on the road."
Forrest fell behind 4-0 early on baskets by Fayetteville's James Keith and Aaron Parks before the Rockets stormed back, netting six straight points on a pair of Pope baskets, bookending a Zach Horvath rebound and put-back.
The remainder of the first quarter was a back and forth affair with the score knotted at 13 after the first eight minutes.
Tyler "Juice" Rumley got into the senior night festivities at the outset of the second quarter, nailing back-to-back three-pointers, giving Forrest a 19-13 lead and forcing a Fayetteville timeout.
The Tigers would eventually cut the Forrest lead to 22-20 on a Nicholas Hopkins trey late in the period, but Pope stepped up once more, draining a long three-bomb and then stealing the rock and feeding Kennedy Mathis for a score to stretch the hometown lead to seven points at 27-20.
One Keith free throw and a Keith bucket with three ticks left on the clock made it 27-23 Forrest at the half.
The Rockets upped their lead to six points early in the third quarter, but five points by Michael Parks on a three-bomb and a basket off a Forrest turnover sliced the lead to a single digit at 31-30.
Rumley countered with another three-pointer to set up a seven-point Forrest mini-run with additional baskets by Pope and Jacob Daughrity, upping the Rockets' lead to 38-32.
The Tigers would trail by six points at 44-38, entering the fateful fourth quarter.
Forrest looked like they had things well at hand, firstly on a Mathis three-pointer that gave them a six-point lead and then once again when Horvath scored with 3:56 remaining in the contest, building the Rockets' lead all the way to nine points at 53-44.
The Tigers pounced all over Forrest over the next 2:32 as they went on a 13-4 run and tied the game on an Aaron Parks three-bomb with 1:24 remaining in the contest.
The Rockets coughed the ball up at the other end and Isiah Thompson made them pay, converting a three-point play in the paint to put the Tigers up 60-57 with 59.5 seconds left.
Horvath got two points back on an inbounds play under the Forrest basket with 39.7 left and the Rockets called timeout.
After the stoppage, Ty Hoeft came up with the defensive play of the game, or maybe the season when he swiped the ball at mid-court and was fouled.
This time, Fayetteville called timeout with 29.7 seconds remaining in the game and Forrest head coach Wes Hobbs drew up the play for Pope.
The senior executed perfectly, waiting for the defense to give him some room, and when they did, Pope spilt three Fayetteville defenders and raced down the lane for the score and foul with 9.4 seconds left.
Fayetteville called time again and Pope nailed the foul shot after the stoppage, giving the Rockets a 62-60 lead.
The Tigers raced down court and had a good look at the basket, but the shot was off by Keith and Dakota Zimmerman came up with the loose ball for Forrest and was fouled with 1.7 seconds remaining.
Zimmerman's first attempt was off, but the Tigers last second long bomb missed the mark and Forrest escaped with the two-point gut wrenching win.
Rumley ended up with 15 points (3 treys), Mathis was next with seven points, Horvath scored six, Daughrity and Hoeft chipped in with four points apiece, and Lucas Pruitt and Zimmerman both added a deuce.
Fayetteville had four players in double figures with Aaron Parks leading the way with 18 points, Michael Parks scored 14, Keith added 13, Hopkins scored 10, and Thompson added nine points for the Tigers (12-9, 7-6).