Rockets tame Tigers for 9-A title
For the second time in four years, the Forrest Rockets posted a losing record during the regular season before going on to win the District 9-A title, this time in a convincing 53-37 win over Fayetteville Friday night at Community.
"I am so proud of the guys, the way they played so hard and physical," said Forrest head coach Wes Hobbs. "That was won with defense, we knew we had to contest the shooters, help out on the dribble drive and we did that."
The Rockets' last district tournament title came in 2009-2010 when they also finished with a sub-.500 record and they remain as the only team to accomplish the feat since the turn of the century.
"It just goes to show you that it really doesn't matter about records when you get to the tournament," said Hobbs. "We really wanted to try to focus on the post-season and the guys did that, we started a new season after the Cornersville game and now we are 4-0 in that new season."
Forrest shut down the high flying Tigers run and gun offense, while methodically dismantling Fayetteville in the trenches to complete the clean sweep of the district tournament.
"You know they are going to make runs and you have to withstand those runs," said Hobbs. "You have to stay in what you want to do, you can't get into the transition game running up and down the floor and our guys dictated the tempo and stayed with the game plan."
Blake Leonard led the Rockets' 34-point attack in the post with 17 points, earning the Forrest junior the tournament MVP, while Kennedy Mathis had nine and Lucas Pruitt scored eight points in the paint.
"You have to give the guys credit for being patient and knowing that is where we have been successful and getting the ball to the hot hand and getting the ball to the guys who were finishing strong," said Hobbs. "Just the toughness of our post players all season long, they all deserve a lot of credit for how hard they have played."
Two first quarter three-pointers by Will Edmondson helped Forrest build an early 10-5 first quarter lead before the Tigers came back with an 8-0 run to lead by three after the first eight minutes.
Staying in front
Leonard scored in the paint open up period number two before Edmondson went downtown twice more, making it an 18-13 contest.
Nicholas Hopkins would eventually cut the Forrest lead to two points at 22-20 on a three-pointer before Leonard and Mathis knocked home low post buckets at the end of the first half, extending the Rockets' lead to 26-20 at the break.
Hobbs and the Rockets stuck to the game plan in the second half, scoring 11 out of their 13 points in the period in the paint, while holding the Tigers to a half dozen.
Leonard had eight in the run as Forrest began to pull away from Fayetteville, leading 39-26, entering the final eight minutes of play at the Roger Kent Brothers Gymnasium in Unionville.
In the fourth quarter, Forrest did not need to make a successful field goal as they scored all 14 points from the free throw line to seal the win, earning the top-seed in Friday night's opening round of the Region 5-A Tournament in Chapel Hill versus McEwen (19-8) at 7:30 p.m.
Forrest is 0-5 all-time versus McEwen, with three of those losses ending the Rockets' season in the region tournament.
"We are going to have to have a real good week of practice to get ready for whoever we are going to pay," said Hobbs, who was voted District 9-A Coach of the Year. "I owe that to the guys because I know every time we step out on the floor, they are going to play hard."
Edmondson ended up with 16 points in the contest, including four treys, while floor general Jacob Daughrity netted two points and Ty Hoeft added a single marker.
Hopkins was the only Tiger in double figures with 19 points.
District 9-A All-Regular Season Team
Ryan Northcutt-Moore County
Dylan Davis-Moore County
Derrick Spears-MTCS, MVP
Coach of the Year-Wes Hobbs (Forrest)
District 9-A All-Tournament Team
Blake Leonard- Forrest, MVP