Lady Rockets knock off MTCS

Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca The Lady Rockets came ready to play Monday night at Community, knocking off top-seeded MTCS 53-40.

Next stop:Title game

The Forrest Lady Rockets (20-10) exited the yellow bus from Chapel Hill for Monday night's District 9-A semifinal match-up with top-seeded Middle Tennessee Christian School (22-6) with vigor and then played with stony determination that paid off in a huge53-40 win over the Lady Cougars.

"The kids played hard tonight, they executed well and when they play like that it makes me look a little smarter than what I really am," said Forrest head coach Jeremy Jean. "It was all on them tonight, they made big plays, made big stops, and we had some kids step up tonight and play big which gave others confidence."

Great nights

Junior Hannah Evans poured in 18 points, including a backbreaking 15 tallies in Forrest's pull-away third quarter and freshman Kyleah Hengesbach celebrated her 15th birthday in style, knocking down a career-high 12 points, including an ice-cold 4-5 performance from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.

The rewards for the Lady Rockets' triumph begin with a chance at capturing their first district tournament title since 2009-2010 when they take on host Community (21-4) at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.

"It will be a battle and I don't think it will be a big margin either way, so we just have to come out and play because we come in as the three seed and have nothing to lose," said Jean. "We just have to continue tonight's intensity and come out and play our hardest and give them all we got."

Big games ahead

The No. 2 seeded Viqueens earned a spot in the final with a tough 49-39 win over Moore County in Monday night's early game.

Forrest, who posted their first 20-win season since 2010-2011, will also host a first round Region 5-A Tournament game next Friday.

"Another game for Kirston (Holder), our only senior, at home," said Jean. "I told her the other night this was not her last home game, we are going to play a couple more. Region and sub-state, that's our goal and they played really, really well tonight."

In an omen of things to come for MTCS, Forrest's Savannah Brothers buried a 3-pointer to begin the ballgame as the Lady Rockets pushed their way to a 13-7 lead on an Evans rebound and put-back six minutes into the contest.

MTCS threat

The Lady Rockets took a 13-9 lead into quarter No. 2 and would build the margin to six points at 16-10 on a Margaret Bryan bucket in the post, but MTCS would cut into Forrest's lead, whittling it all the way down to a single digit at 16-15 with 3:36 to play in the period on a steal and score by Abby Buckner.

The game would remain close the rest of the first half with Forrest holding a 21-18 lead at the break.

Hannah Evans (5) poured in 18 points, including 15 in the third quarter for Forrest, who will play the Viqueens in Thursday night's District 9-A title game.

Evans began her torrid third quarter with a three-bomb, and with 2:36 to play in the period, Evans drilled another trey, making it 32-23 and Jean called a timeout.

The Lady Rockets executed the huddle plan perfectly when they forced an MTCS missed shot and Evans scored in the low post, putting the Lady Rockets up by double digits for the first time in the contest.

On a roll

The Lady Cougars seemed rattled, turning the ball over to Forrest and Brothers electrified the Chapel Hill faithful when she converted a 3-pointer the old-fashioned way.

Caitlyn Yost continued the Forrest run with a rebound and put-back before Evans tallied her final basket of the period on another low-post bucket, giving the Lady Rockets their biggest lead of the game at 41-23.

Forrest led 41-26 entering the final eight minutes of play, but MTCS clawed their way back, cutting the FHS lead to 11 points on an Ashlynd Wilkerson basket with five minutes to go in the game.

No comebacks

Over the next several minutes, every time MTCS tried to come back Hengesbach answered the call, scoring the final eight points for Forrest, beginning with an over-the-top fast-break basket, making it 47-23 at the three-minute mark of the fourth quarter.

Hengesbach would make four free throws down the stretch, plus a huge game-clinching basket off a pretty pass from Yost that gave the Lady Rockets a 15-point lead with one minute to go in the eventual 13-point win.

Yost ended up with eight points for Forrest, while Brothers had seven, Bryan ended up with a half dozen and Kirston Holder added a deuce.

Wilkerson led all scorers in the contest with 22 points.