FMS prepares for World play
The FMS hoops squads returned home Monday night after a tough stretch that saw the boys lose three-in-a-row, while the Lady Rockets had dropped two-out-of the last three games.
Both squads came up with big wins versus Middle Tennessee Christian School Monday at Chapel Hill with the girls posting an easy 48-21 win, while the Rockets (10-6) survived a tough Cougar squad 64-61.
The Lady Rockets' (12-4) only four losses this season have come at the hands of Westwood and Eagleville, who have both beaten FMS in its respective home and away series.
"They have our number right now and hopefully we will get it figured out when we get matched up with them in the (Duck River Conference) tournament," FMS coach David Junkins said.
Coming off a 52-38 win at Liberty Thursday night, FMS blasted off to a furious start versus the Lady Cougars as Anna Blanton fed Jenna Blanton for an easy lay-up off the opening tip.
The Lady Rockets went up 7-0 before Jacey Wilkerson scored for MTCS with 3:57 remaining in the opening period.
Ally Blanton came up with a bucket for the Lady Rockets, who turned up the defensive pressure cooker during a 7-0 run that gave the Chapel Hill girls a 14-2 lead after the first quarter.
Ally Blanton opened up the second quarter scoring for FMS and Laura Ann Mealer followed with a steal and score, making it 18-2.
"After that delay (referees came late because of logistical mistake) I was a little concerned and we weren't in school today," Junkins said. "We got off to that early jump like we needed to and got to play a lot of kids."
After an MTCS missed shot, Mealer drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key and Jenna Blanton followed with another transition bucket for FMS, upping the lead to 23-2.
A Shea Lewis free throw made it 24-2 and the only thing that prevented MTCS from being shutout in the second quarter was one late foul shot by Wilkerson.
Totally in charge
Forrest put the game away at the outset of the second half, beginning with a Mealer basket in the paint.
Abbie Hill knocked down two free throws to make it 30-3, Ally Blanton hit one more charity shot and a low post bucket by Lewis opened up a 30-point lead for FMS.
Junkins emptied the bench at that point for the remainder of the contest as the Lady Rockets cruised to the 27-point victory.
Jenna Blanton and Mealer led the Lady Rockets in the scoring column with nine points apiece and Ally Blanton had eight
Angela Jett came up with seven, second half points, Lewis netted six, and Hill, Anna Blanton and Cassidy Stewart added two points apiece.
"We have three goals that we set this year," Junkins said. "Number one we want to be good adults and become good adults, number two is we have to get these kids ready for coach (Jeremy ) Jean and number three and most importantly of all is we want to bring the duck home."
The Rockets, coming off three straight losses needed a win and it was in doubt as both squads played inspired ball the entire game.
FMS standout Ryley McClaran, who poured in 41 points in the contest, nailed a long-range 3-pointer at the final buzzer, lifting the Rockets to victory.
"He has such a quick shot it is hard to defend," FMS coach Jessica Ezell said. "He was feeling it and I was fixing to yell at him because he was taking too much time, but he was calling for a screen from the left side and he knew what he was doing. He practices that all the time."
The Cougars led 23-16 after the first quarter and went up by as many as nine points in the second period before FMS fought back, cutting the MTCS lead to three points at 34-31 on a McClaran 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
The Cougars surged again, taking a six-point lead with three minutes to play in the third quarter.
A Cole Villazon trey sparked Forrest late, making it 42-41 and after a Braden Smith bucket for the Cougars, McClaran went downtown, knotting the contest 44.
Smith scored again and the period ended in a tie at 46 apiece when McClaran made two free throws with just a couple of seconds remaining in the stanza.
Spencer McCown opened the fourth quarter, hitting a runner in the lane to give FMS their first lead of the game at 48-46.
Forrest steps up
The Rockets stayed hot as McClaran made a basket off of an MTCS missed shot and Joel Burton fired up the Chapel Hill crowd when he nailed a trey from the corner, giving the hometown boys a 53-47 lead to force a Cougar timeout with 4:57 left in the game.
"Joel was banned for most of the year, I said no more three's," said Ezell. "He has hit the last two, so I gave him the green light again. It's about taking the smart shot and when Joel sets his feet, he is alright."
The momentum and the lead shifted the Cougars way via a 12-3 run that lasted until the two-minute mark, lifting MTCS to a 59-56 lead.
McClaran re-knotted the contest at 59 with a 3-pointer and after Cougars' missed shot, McClaran scored on a driving layup with 27.6 seconds left to put FMS up by two points.
Braden scored out of a timeout with 11 seconds remaining in the game and McClaran brought the ball up court and found an opening on the right wing where he rained home the walk-off game winner to seal the win.
"We are moving up, but we are letting too many teams play us close," Ezell said. "We still have a lot of things to fix, including rebounding which I feel is effort, so we have to get that fixed," Ezell said.
FMS has three consecutive road games at Moore County, Community and Fayetteville before they return home for the regular season finale on December 10 versus Huntland.
The World Tournament begins on December 12 and runs through the 19th.
"The good thing is, the better teams have beaten us and we are not coming in undefeated like last year, so maybe teams will be overlooking us," Ezell said. "When we are on and playing as a team and doing the little things, I think we can beat anybody."