Rockets falter against Huntland after big win

Sunday, January 15, 2017
Mitchell Everett (22) goes up for a shot in the second half for the Rockets, who lost 81-67 at Huntland Wednesday. Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

The Huntland Hornets (5-12, 4-2) have just five wins this season, but all five of those victories have come against District 9A foes, including an 81-67 weather related makeup game home win over Forrest Wednesday.

The Rockets (3-17, 1-5), coming off their first district win of the season on Tuesday night versus Moore County were in the game for most of the first half before Huntland began to pull away.

"I'm sure that back-to-back played a small part in the letdown, but that's why you play these so you can learn to fight through," Toombs said. "This is what tourney time looks like and that's actually the place we will be playing at, so I'm glad the back-to-back was like this."

Back-to-back games didn't bother Ty Hengesbach, who scored 23 points Tuesday versus Moore County and came back with another strong performance at Huntland, pouring in a game-high 27 points, including six 3-pointers.

Ryley McClaran (14) and Sam Ford (12) were also in double figures for the Rockets, while Huntland had five players post double digits in the scoring column.

Zach Stovall led the way with 20 points, Rahul Patel had 19, Will Rector 17, Bryson Foster had four 3-pointers for 12 points and Jarod Pendleton scored 10.

The Rockets looked good at the outset of the game, leading 5-2 on a Hengesbach field goal and a Rich 3-pointer before the game went into a back-and-forth mode with Forrest leading 15-10 with two minutes remaining in the first period.

Moments later, Jake Pendleton tied game from the free throw line for Huntland, but the Rockets went back in front on a McClaran drive to the hoop.

A Rector rebound and put-back in the paint was followed by a Forrest turnover that led to a Foster 3-pointer at the buzzer, making it 20-17 in favor of the Hornets.

Forrest's Sam Ford (24) fights for position in the low post versus Huntland.

Patel made it a five-point game to begin the second quarter, but the Rockets fought back again moments later on a Hengesbach trey, only to see Huntland increase the its lead to seven points at 29-22.

Everett scored in the low post for Forrest before the Hornets took off on a 12-2 run to end the first half with a 41-26 lead.

The closest the Rockets managed to get to the lead was 11 points early in third quarter as the Hornets pounded the boards for a bevy of rebounds that led to easy buckets in the paint.

"I'm not disappointed at all----they knocked down shots and we didn't rebound at all, Sam (Ford) and (Jacob) Rich can't do it all, they need some help in the paint," Forrest coach Randy Toombs said.

The Hornets pulled away in the fourth quarter, but the Rockets played until the end, hustling up and down the floor until the final buzzer sounded in the 14-point loss.

"I'm very proud of the total effort down to the end, we kept making small runs and they would answer with their own," Toombs said. "I'm still very optimistic about our chances in the district and with these guys, it's very possible. We have another big game Friday with Fayetteville City and that's our focus for now."

Forrest 17 9 20 21-67

Huntland 20 21 23 17-81

Forrest (67): Ty Hengesbach 27, Ryley McClaran 14, Sam Ford 12, Jacob Rich 8, Austin Bailey 4, Mitchell Everett 2

3-point goals (10): Hengesbach 6, McClaran 2, Rich 2

Free throws (15-for-23): Hengesbach 5-for-7, Bailey 4-for-6, Ford 4-for-6, Rich 2-for-2, Everett 0-for-2

Huntland (81): Zach Stovall 20, Rahul Patel 19, Will Rector 17, Bryson Foster 12, Jarod Pendleton 10, Trey Kelley 2, Alex Simmons 1

3-point goals (9): Foster 4, Rector 2, Patel 2, Pendleton

Free throws (14-for-22): Stovall 6-for-10, Pendleton 5-for-6, Simmons 1-for-1, Rector 1-for-1, Patel 1-for-4

Halftime score: Huntland 41, Forrest 26