Rocket comeback try falls short
The one thing coaches fear the most is falling behind in a road playoff game and the Forrest Rockets fell so far behind that not even a spirited comeback was enough as they were eliminated from post-season play via a 47-39 loss at White House-Heritage Saturday night in the first round of the Region 5-A Tournament.
"I told them after the game that I was happy to go to battle with them," said Forrest head coach Wes Hobbs. "They played hard and made plays in the second half, we much better defensively in the second half, but we just spotted them way too much of a lead."
The Patriots took advantage of a 0-9 shooting slump and five first quarter Forrest turnovers as the Rockets did not score until the 1:44 mark of the first period on a Dakota Zimmerman basket.
Zach Horvath would score for Forrest one possession later, but the Rockets were in a deep 15-4 hole after the first eight minutes of play and it did not get any better in the second quarter.
"We missed a lot of free throws, a lot lay-ups and a lot of easy ones that we normally hit, but they were a great defensive team," said Hobbs.
By the time the first half ended, White House-Heritage was in complete control, leading 34-14.
Seven was the lucky number for the Patriots in the first half as Johnny Bailey, Christian Reid, and Evan Allison split 21 points in three equal parts.
The Rockets were down to their last 16 minutes for the season if they did not change things in a hurry and they did, coming out of the locker room on a mission to begin period number three.
"We had a talk at the half about not getting pushed around and not looking for excuses, we just had to get after it," said Hobbs. "I told them I don't care if we all foul out and were all dead exhausted at the end."
Horvath swiped the ball and scored right off the bat and Tyler "Juice" Rumley followed with another steal and score, forcing an early Patriot timeout.
White House-Heritage went white-knuckled shooting the ball and had butter fingers holding onto it, while Forrest began to heat up.
Horvath scored again and after tie-up on the floor won by Rumley, Jacob Daughrity drilled a three-pointer to make it a 34-23 ballgame.
After a White House brick, Mark Pope hit one of two from the free throw line and followed that moments later with a long three-bomb to cut the Patriots' lead to seven points at 34-27.
Tyler Cunningham broke the 13-0 Forrest scoring run with a basket in the paint, but Lucas Pruitt got the two points right back and the Rockets trailed by the seven-point margin, entering the fourth quarter.
Cunningham, who led all scorers in the ballgame with a dozen points, knocked one in from in close to begin the fourth quarter, but Forrest continued their comeback.
Horvath hit two free throws to offset the Cunningham bucket and Pope followed with five straight points, including a long three-bomb, slicing the Patriots' lead to just two points at 38-36 midway through the period.
The two squads traded turnovers before Daughrity stole the ball and found Ty Hoeft free on the run.
Hoeft was fouled trying to score and he calmly drained two free throws, completing the Rocket comeback, tying the game at 38 with 3:31 remaining in the contest.
Cunningham went to the glass for a score at the other end to make it 40-38, but Kennedy Mathis hit one of two from the charity stripe for Forrest, making it a one-point game with 2:59 left in the season for one of the teams.
White House-Heritage coughed the ball up on the inbounds play after the Mathis free throw, giving Forrest a chance to take the lead, but the Rockets could not convert from in close.
Cunningham scored again in the low post with just over a minute to play in the game to put the Pats up 42-39.
The Rockets could not convert at the other end and then had to watch as Bailey hit both ends of a one and one to extend the lead to 44-39 with 42 seconds remaining in the game.
The Rockets (19-12) would not score again in the contest as their season ended in the eight-point loss.
The Patriots (20-6) advanced to Tuesday night's region semifinal versus host Eagleville, who beat Jo Byrns, while MTCS and Community both beat their District 10-A opponents McEwen and Nashville Christian to meet in an all 9-A semifinal.
Horvath led the Rockets with 10 points in his final game as a Rocket, while Pope scored nine in his swansong, and Rumley added six in his last game in the blue and white.
Daughrity chipped in with five points, Hoeft scored four, Pruitt and senior Dakota Zimmerman added a deuce apiece, and Mathis scored one point.