Rockets earn back-to-back titles

Wednesday, December 23, 2015
The 2015-2016 World Tournament champions FMS Rockets. Photos by Anthony S. Puca

No. 5 seed comes through to claim DRVC in World Tournament

Last season, the FMS Rockets swept through the regular season and the Duck River Valley Conference Tournament with an undefeated record.

This year, the Rockets came into the 54th Annual World Tournament as the number-five seed, playing like a lunch pail team for much of the season and they followed that mantra to form in a 44-35 win over six-seeded Middle Tennessee Christian School Saturday at Chapel Hill to claim back-to-back titles.

'Just have fun'

"Our goal for the whole year was to win every quarter and for the first time we did not do that today," FMS coach Jessica Ezell said. "So we went in at halftime and I told them we have two more quarters, just have fun and they did---they battled and they played hard and they fought back."

The Rockets fell behind the upstart Cougars early, trailing 10-5 after the first quarter and late in the second quarter, FMS trailed by eight points at 20-12 before they kicked in the comeback.

Forrest's Cole Villazon, who scored 18 points in the DRVC final, is hacked as he goes up for a first quarter jumper.

Cole Villazon started a 7-0 run to end the first half with two foul shots and was followed by a Dalton Colvin rebound and put back that resulted in a three-point play.

Ahead at half

Ryley McClaran, who led all scorers in the game with 20 points, finished up the half with two more free throws, making it a 20-19 contest, entering the third quarter.

Jackson Green scored for the Cougars to start the second half, but McClaran went downtown to tie the game at 22.

Braden Smith knocked down a shot for MTCS to seesaw the lead back to the Cougars before Villazon scored six straight points, including a 3-pointer to give the Rockets the lead for good.

McClaran added to the big push when he drained one foul shot to end the period with Forrest in the lead 31-24.

Determined Cougars

The Cougars fought back tooth and nail, outscoring the Rockets 12-3 to cut the Forrest lead to 36-34 with 1:59 remaining in the contest.

The FMS Rockets celebrate as the time runs out in their 44-35 triumph over MTCS.

The Rockets would put the game away at the free throw line, making 8-out-of 14 foul shots down the stretch to win the game and secure the back-to-back World Tournament titles.

"We have struggled with free throws this year, that's been one of our weaknesses," Ezell said. "They stepped up and proved that when the game is close we can pull ahead, not just keep it close. They pushed ahead and knocked them down."


Forrest finished the season with a 16-7 record and had a lot weight on its back to follow up the undefeated team from last season.

FMS coach Jessica Ezell gives the Rockets some instructions with less than a minute to go in the game.

"I had a of pressure on me when I walked in and there was a lot kids here that I had when they were five or six, so they had to adjust from me being the fun PE teacher," Ezell said. "It was exciting to see the progress throughout the journey and this is a totally different team than when we started. I had their backs and they had mine the entire season and I love it."

MTCS-10 10 4 11-35

FMS- 5 14 12 13-44

Westwood-Braden Smith 11, Heath Kurkendall 11, Matthew George 5, Jackson Green 4, Houston Batey 2.

Three-point goals-Smith, Kurkendall.

Free throws-Kurkendall 2-3, George 0-2.

Ryley McClaran hits runner in the lane in the fourth quarter of the Rockets' 44-35 win over MTCS in the DRVC title game Saturday at Chapel Hill.

Forrest-Ryley McClaran 20, Cole Villazon 18, Max Kirby 3, Joel Burton 1, Lofton Yeager 1, Dalton Colvin 1.

Three-point goals-McClaran 2, Villazon, Kirby.

Free throws-McClaran 6-7, Spencer McCown 0-2, Villazon 9-14, Yeager 1-2, Burton 1-2, Colvin 1-2.

DRVC All-Season Team- Forrest: Ryley McClaran, Cole Villazon, MTCS: Heath Kurkendall, Braden Smith; Cascade: Blaze Bryson, Seth Countress, Ethan Swan; Eagleville: Cameron Curtis, Bryson Kelley, Jordan Davenport; Huntland: Dalton Davidson, Fayetteville: Isaac Pace, Community: Alex Mitchell, Corde Lane, Kobe Pride; Moore County: Evan McKenzie, Westwood: Jake Hollandsworth, Roderic Brinkley.

DRVC All-Tournament Team-Forrest: Ryley McClaran, Cole Villazon, Spencer McCown; MTCS: Heath Kurkendall, Braden Smith, Jackson Green; Liberty: Ben Taylor, Elijah Pope; Cascade: Blaze Bryson, Brandon Heath.