Raiderettes rough up Forrest
It was a packed house in Eagleville Monday night at the Region 5-A Tournament and the upset bug was set in motion as No. 3 three seeded Nashville Christian stormed back from a 12-point first half deficit to beat second-seeded Cascade 51-39 in the first semifinal, setting the stage for the fourth-seeded Forrest Lady Rockets attempt at pulling off an upset over the top-seeded and sixth ranked Moore County Raiderettes in the nightcap.
Moore County had won the previous four meetings between the long-time rivals and six out of the last nine, including a 40-point thrashing in their last meeting.
Forrest knew it was going to a rough and tumble night versus the stout Raiderettes and Jean's squad turned in a gallant effort before Moore County eventually pulled away in the 52-35 win, earning a spot in the Wednesday night's title game versus Nashville Christian and a berth in the sectional round.
"We competed, these kids played hard every single play, every single night," said Forrest head coach Jeremy Jean. "We just had one of those seasons where things just didn't go well for us, we played 34 games and I bet 26 of them were within eight or 10 points and if a few shots fall, instead of being 16-18, we could have been 28-6."
As the game worn on, the difference in the contest came down to the myriad of whistles blown on the Lady Rockets and the expertise from the foul line by the Raiderettes, who turned in a sparkling 22-26 effort from the charity stripe.
"These kids played hard and deserved to win, but when a kid gets a broken nose and it is not called, you don't have a chance," said Jean. "All of us play at least one game a year where it is that bad, usually when it gets that bad, they (officials) call it, but they didn't and tonight you didn't know what was going to happen and that is hard for the players and a coach."
Class A Miss Basketball favorite Sarah Raby was the dominant force as she has been all season, scoring a game high 27 points, including an 11-13 performance from the free throw line.
All of Raby's points came in the low post and at crunch time, Raby was handed the ball and Forrest could not stop her.
Forrest came out inspired to begin the game, and after falling behind 8-4 early, the Lady Rockets went on a 7-0 run.
Savannah Brothers, who led Forrest with 14 points, started the rally with a three-pointer.
At the 1:57 mark of the first quarter, Tayler Andrews hit two free throws for Forrest before Brothers came up with a steal and fed Kirston Holder on the run for a lay-up.
After a five-second call on Moore County, Forrest had a chance to add to their lead, but a turnover and a Savannah Williams basket at the buzzer, made it 11-10 Lady Rockets after the first eight minutes of action.
Brothers started the second quarter, making two more free throws to put the Lady Rockets up by three points before the fouls started to mount for Forrest.
Williams scored again in the low post and shortly after that, Williams went to the free throw for a bonus one and one with 4:57 remaining in the first half and made both attempts.
Moments later, Kelsey Camp converted another one and one to give the Raiderettes a 16-13 lead.
Hannah Evans scored for Forrest to make it 16-15 before Raby scored the final five points of the period to give Moore County a 21-15 lead at the break.
"We played a solid first half and that is what we were hoping to do the whole game, but certain things took us out of that we couldn't control," said Jean.
Moore County boosted their lead to 10 points midway through the third quarter before a Brothers' trey cut the lead to seven at 28-21.
The Lady Rockets picked up the pace on the defensive end and made a run, beginning with a Holder free throw, and after a Moore County miscue, Candace Daughrity scored to make it a four-point ballgame at 28-24.
Once again it was Raby who stemmed the tide, making two more free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining in the period to give Moore County a 30-24 lead, entering the final eight minutes.
The Lady Rockets could not find the tally sheet for the first three minutes of the fourth quarter and Raby made them pay, scoring seven out nine points by Moore County, who extended their lead to 39-24 with 4:57 left in the game.
Forrest would try to comeback as Hannah Phifer, Daughrity, and Brothers would all hit three-pointers down the stretch, but Raby and the Raiderettes took control of the basketball and the game to win going away.
"I am extremely proud of their effort tonight and I told my five seniors that they played their butts off all year," said Jean. "It stinks that they have to go out like this and it will be hard to replace their intensity everyday in practice and in every game."
Forrest (16-18) got five points each from Daughrity and Phifer, while Caitlyn Yost added four, Holder had three, and Evans and Andrews added a deuce.
Moore County (29-4) will take a 13-game winning steak into the championship game versus the Lady Eagles (22-9), who have won six in a row and 15 out their last 17.