Rockets let one slip away

Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Senior Austin Bailey brings the ball up court in the first half for the Rockets, who squandered a big lead Friday night. Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

The Forrest Rockets, mired in an early season six-game losing streak were hungry for a win in Friday night's District 9A opener at Fayetteville, but after building a big first half lead the bottom fell out in a second half scoring drought that resulted in a 61-55 loss.

"Crazy how this game works isn't it?" Forrest coach Randy Toombs said. "It's very disappointing to have let this one go, but the beauty of this game is....there is always another game down the road. This is one of the very few sports you can redeem yourself after a letdown."

Ryley McClaran was the only player in double figures for the Rockets as the Forrest freshman scored 22 points, including three first half 3-pointers.

Sam Ford converted a layup off of an inbounds pass from Austin Bailey to open the scoring in the game and moments later Bailey made two free throws before Zorion Pullen scored for the Tigers.

Bailey nailed two more charity shots and Ford made it 8-2 with a bucket in the low post.

After a Fayetteville score and subsequent Forrest turnover, Ty Hengesbach swiped the rock and went the distance, kicking off a 7-2 run that was capped off by a Hengesbach 3-pointer to open up a 15-6 Rocket lead.

Freshman Ryley McClaran (10) had 22 points in the Rockets' 61-55 loss at Fayetteville Friday night.

Forrest took a 17-9 lead to the second period and early in the stanza, the Tigers cut the margin to five points at 18-13 before the Rockets went on a 15-3 run sparked by three McClaran 3-pointers that extended their lead to 33-16 and led 36-20 at the half.

"The first half was a perfect game planned half," Toombs said. "The boys put into motion what we worked on and it went the way we thought."

"At the half I restated the game plan, reminded them that city will go on a run, not to let it shake us, get ready for the fouls to swing the other way and take care of the ball."

Forrest still led by as many as 10 points midway through the third quarter, but the tone of the game had changed with Fayetteville becoming the aggressor.

A big Tiger run at the end of the quarter made it a five-point game, heading into the fourth quarter.

"We stop attacking, didn't hit our shots and it got away from us," Toombs said.

It got away early as Fayetteville began the fourth quarter with two consecutive baskets to make it a one-point contest at 45-44.

With 3:20 left in the game Fayetteville took the lead on a Pullen basket, but Forrest did not give up as they still led 53-52 on a Jacob Rich bucket with 1:59 remaining.

Pullen nailed a big 3-pointer moments later and the Tigers pulled away for the win, leaving Toombs a little stunned, but still confident in his Rockets.

"I'm still very proud of the effort and hopefully we have learned something to take into the next contest," said the coach.

Forrest 17 19 9 10-55

Fayetteville 9 13 18 21-61

Forrest-Ryley McClaran 22, Ty Hengesbach 9, Sam Ford 8, Austin Bailey 6, Jacob Rich 5, Tim Elliot 3, Mitchell Everette 2

Three-point goals-McClaran 3, Hengesbach

Free throws-McClaran 5-for-6, Bailey 4-for-4, Hengesbach 2-for-2, Elliot 1-for-2

Fayetteville-Isiah Watkins 19, Ty Reese 17, Zorion Pullen 9, Floyd Williams 7, Isiah Jones 5, Akayai Dyer 2, Mari Buchanan 2

Three-point goals-Watkins 2, Pullen, Jones, Reese

Free throws-Williams 5-for-7, Reese 4-for-7, Watkins 3-for-4, Pullen 0-for-2, Jones 0-for-1