Rockets take down Hornets, go to region
The Forrest Rockets came into Friday night's District 9-A opening round game versus Huntland riding a five-game winning streak and the hot hand continued as they came back from a third quarter deficit to win going away 66-52.
"I knew coming in with the great players that they have and how hard they play, it was going to be a battle," said Forrest head coach Wes Hobbs. "I have enjoyed watching Jacob McLennan play so much and he is such a great shooter and he shot it great tonight, but the key was making him take tough shots and we did."
McLennan finished his varsity career with a game-high 27 points, but nipping at McLennan's heels all night was Forrest senior Zach Horvath, who has drawn the tough defensive assignment all year.
"Zach's leadership defensively and just guarding the best player every night is just selfless, giving up everything for the team," said Hobbs. "Last year he scored a lot for us and this year he has turned into that defender and you couldn't ask for a better kid and a better player to do that."
A McLennan three-pointer midway through the first period put the Rockets down 10-7 before consecutive treys by Ty Hoeft, Mark Pope, and Jacob Daughrity gave the home team a 16-10 lead.
The first quarter ended on a Kennedy Mathis basket in the low post, following a Huntland turnover.
Mathis kicked off the second quarter scoring with a fast-break bucket off a Horvath pass, opening up a 10-point lead at 20-10 before Huntland surged back with a 13-2 run.
A Pope three-bomb with under a minute to play in the first half made it 25-23 Forrest, entering the second half.
Huntland scored the first four points of the second half to take the lead and the two squads would exchange going ahead five times before the Rockets finally took control with two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Dakota Zimmerman started an 8-0 Forrest run with a three-point play on a drive to the hoop, and after a Huntland turnover, Daughrity went downtown for three points.
Daughrity would hit two free throws moments later to put the Rockets up 41-34 before McLennan nailed a trey to stop the bleeding for Huntland.
Tyler "Juice" Rumley took a nice pass from Mathis in the paint for another Forrest basket and Pope ended the quarter with an off-balance three-bomb, giving the Rockets some breathing room at 46-37.
Mathis made it an 11-point game with the first basket of the fourth period, but Huntland was not done yet as a McLennan three-pointer, followed by a Kobe Foster jumper cut the Rockets' lead to 48-42.
The Forrest lead was still at six points at 52-46 with four minutes to go in the contest when Horvath converted a three-point play to increase their lead to 55-46.
From there, the Rockets iced the contest from the free throw line, making 12-16 down the stretch, including a backbreaking 4-4 effort by Rumley after a Huntland technical foul with 31.9 seconds remaining in the contest.
"We shot the free throws well and that is the key in big games," said Hobbs. "When it got a little emotional there we kept our head and knocked down some free throws and that was the difference."
Daughrity (two treys) led the Rockets with 15 points in the contest, while Pope scored 14 points on four three-pointers and two free throws and Rumley ended up with 11 points, including a stout 7-8 performance from the charity stripe.
Zimmerman chipped in with eight points for the Rockets, Mathis had seven, Horvath finished with five, Hoeft scored four, and Lucas Pruitt netted a deuce.
Forrest took on top-seeded MTCS in round two in a rubber match game as the two teams split the regular season series.
"If we can win that game, we will have a chance to play for the district championship," said Hobbs. "We made it to that game last year and we want to hopefully get it done this year."