Hengesbach bomb wins World
The FMS Rockets teetered on the edge of disappointment in the championship game of the 53rd Annual World Tournament in Chapel Hill Saturday night versus Liberty until Ty Hengesbach drained an ice-cold 3-pointer with 8.1 seconds left, securing a 41-40 comeback win over the Patriots and capping off an undefeated Duck River Valley Conference season slate at 20-0.
"The boys have fought hard, they have had hard games and that is what is so cool about them, but you could see a little bit of indecisiveness in their eyes at points tonight," said FMS Coach Randy Toombs. "I tried to tell them to calm down, don't let it bother you, keep playing through it because they are going to make runs, they are going hit shots, make steals, so what, we are just going to come back every time they to do something and you know what, they did it."
The contest was intense and well played from the outset as the top two tournament seeds met for the third time this season.
Forrest had won the last two meetings by nine and eight points respectively, but on this night, the Rockets never led by more than four points and Liberty (16-4) held the biggest lead for either side at five points with three minutes remaining in the game.
Heroic performances were turned in by many, beginning with Liberty's Bradley Houston, who lifted the Patriots on his shoulders for much of the title tilt, scoring a game-high 17 points in the loss.
Daniil Yatskov led the Rockets with 12 points, finishing his eighth-grade season in style, but when Yatskov got into second half foul trouble, a superhero appeared in Chapel Hill with an 'E' on his chest in Mitchell Everett, who stepped up with a superior effort, notching all seven of his points in relief of Yatskov.
Forrest seventh-grader Ryley McClaran, harassed most of the night by a smothering Liberty defense, came up huge, orchestrating the offense and tallying an enormous basket down the stretch for the Rockets.
Dylan Jones added a bruising performance in the paint, pulling down several key rebounds, while controlling the low post on defense for FMS.
From the start
Hengesbach began his bookend scoring night, nailing a pull-up jumper at the foul line to begin the contest as the Rockets led 8-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Forrest would hold a four point lead twice in the second quarter with the second time coming on a spectacular play by Brett Burnham, who saved the ball from going out of bounds with a dive and dish to Yatskov to cap off a fast-break, making it 16-12.
Liberty would cut the FMS lead to three points at the half and early in third quarter, the Patriots took a 19-18 lead with a 5-2 run that was capped off with an Elijah Pope 3-pointer.
Bradley would give the Pats a three-point lead moments later, but the Rockets would come back, eventually taking a 28-26 lead on a Jones rebound and pass to McClaran for a score that ended the third period.
Yatskov went to the bench when he picked up his fourth foul early in the fourth quarter as Liberty edged ahead on a Bradley basket before Everett boosted the Rockets cause with a three-point play the old-fashioned way, seesawing the lead back to Forrest.
Liberty made their push towards a potential title when they went on a 9-3 run over the next four minutes with Bradley stealing the ball and scoring with 1:30 remaining in the game, giving the Shelbyville squad 40-36 lead.
"I got news for you, that was one of the first times we were down all year, I can't remember any except the few games we lost, we were never down with a minute left and had to pull it, so that was just another hurdle these boys got over, " said Toombs. "Most of the time, people had to foul us, they had to put us on the free throw line and we hit them. This time we had to do it, we had to knock down a couple big shots, get a couple big rebounds and we did, so I am just so proud of them."
Yatskov would score on a rebound and put-back in the post and the Rockets got the ball back when Liberty could not convert the front end of a one-and-one from the free throw line with 34.1 seconds left.
After a Forrest timeout, the Rockets moved the ball around the perimeter before Hengesbach shook free and launched a 3-pointer that found nothing but the bottom of the net, giving FMS the lead and sending the Chapel Hill faithful into a frenzy.
"I was thinking not to shoot it, but it was wide open, so I just took it," said Hengesbach. "I was so happy after it went in, I couldn't think. This is so amazing."
Liberty managed to get a decent shot off at the buzzer, but it rattled away, ending the World Tournament classic contest.
"It was fun, I saw the boys not playing up to par most of the game with turnovers and not really being focused or having a sense of urgency like they should have," said Toombs. "But like I said all year, when we get in to the fourth quarter our 1, 2, 3 call is "Finish" and they finished, boy did they finish."
Hengesbach and McClaran ended up with eight points apiece for FMS, while Everett finished with seven, Jones had five, and Josh Meglis had one big fourth quarter free throw.
Grayson Tramel and Alex Freeman notched seven points apiece for Liberty, while Pope and Darious Ransom added three points each, John Drawdy had two, and Mason Landers netted one point.
Yatskov, Jones, Hengesbach, and McClaran all were awarded spots on the DRVC All-Conference Team, while Yatskov, Jones, and Hengesbach also garnered spots on the All-Tournament squad.