Lady Rockets fend off MTCS attack

Sunday, January 22, 2017
Grace Thrasher (44) finishes off a first quarter fast break bucket after hustling down the floor and grabbing a pretty pass from Caitlyn Yost. Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

Prior to March 1, 2010, the Forrest Lady Rockets had never lost to Middle Tennessee Christian School, but on that fateful night everything changed when the Lady Cougars upset Chapel Hill in the Region 5A Tournament semifinals at East Robertson.

From then on it has been a war on the hardcourt between the two schools with the latest battle taking place at Forrest Tuesday night where the Lady Rockets made it five wins in a row over the Lady Cougars after clawing out a tough 61-55 win.

MTCS standout Abby Buckner (18 points) and Forrest's all-time leading scorer Caitlyn Yost (14) waged a battle within the battle as they showed why they are considered two of the best ever players at each school, displaying excellent talent and leadership on the floor.

"There aren't very many easy games in our district and MTCS definitely isn't one of those easy ones," Forrest coach Jeremy Jean said. "They have a very good player in Buckner and she has a good supporting cast with her."

Cammie Adams added 17 points and Emma Self had 16 for MTCS, but the stars on the night were a pair of Forrest youngsters as eighth-grader Laura Mealer led the Lady Rockets in scoring with 16 points.

"Laura played a really good game, her offense is coming around to where she can lead us in scoring on any given night," Jean stated. "What she brings to the game every night is that she is going to get boards."

Freshman Jaide Langley came up huge, icing the game from the free throw line with 4.7 seconds remaining in the contest, burying both ends of a one-and-one opportunity that gave Forrest a four-point lead.

Langley had some help as the Lady Rockets turned a poor 10-for-23 free shooting effort into gold as Langley, Kyleah Hengesbach and Emma Stacey went 5-for-6 in the final 12 seconds of the ballgame.

"Free throws hurt us early in the game," Jean said. "We couldn't get any to go down, but late in the game we made some bigs ones to put the game away."

The Lady Rockets started fast, especially Grace Thrasher, who scored the first seven points for Forrest, including a three-point play the old-fashioned way and a hustle play on a fast break bucket that gave the home team a 7-1 lead.

A Madison Curtis 3-pointer moments later made it 10-3 before the Lady Cougars fought back, cutting the Forrest lead to 13-11 on a Buckner trey.

One more free throw by Thrasher and a pair by Mealer near the end of the first quarter gave Forrest a 16-11 margin.

Eight points by Emma Self in the low post ignited a 10-3 run by MTCS to begin the second period, giving the Lady Cougars a 21-19 lead.

Forrest eighth-grader Laura Mealer (23), who led the Lady Rockets in scoring with 16 points, buries a second quarter 3-pointer.

Forrest turned the deficit into a 28-21 lead as Hengesbach scored a pair of buckets, Yost nailed a jumper in the lane and Mealer followed with a 3-pointer from the top of the key.

The topsy-turvy battle continued when the Lady Cougars finished the first half with a 9-3 run to trail by one point at 31-30.

"We played well offensively the first half especially considering Yost only took one shot," Jean said. "Our offense kept us ahead the first half, but our defense wasn't very good the first half and we gave up way too many easy buckets, which kept them in the game at that time."

The lead changed hands five times in the third period before a Mealer three-point play on a rebound and put-back tied the game at 42, entering the final eight minutes.

The fourth period was much of the same as the two squads battled the entire way and after two Buckner free throws gave MTCS a 54-52 lead with 1:24 to play in the game, Jean called timeout.

Whatever the plan was, Forrest executed it perfectly as Yost drained a 3-pointer off a set play, putting the Lady Rockets in the lead with less than a minute to go in the game.

Freshman Jaide Langley ices the game from the free throw line, nailing both ends of a one-and-one opportunity with 4.7 seconds left in Tuesday night's 61-55 win over MTCS at Chapel Hill.

The Forrest press forced a foul on MTCS on the next possession and from there, the Lady Rockets held the Cougars to one point the rest of the way, while they sealed the deal from the charity stripe.

"I am pleased at the poise that the girls showed in the second half," Jean said. "Every time they took the lead we were able to answer and get it back and after the three by Yost to put us up one late, we really locked them down on the defensive end."

It doesn't get any easier for the Lady Rockets, who have district road games at Community tonight and at Eagleville on Tuesday before a six-day break as they don't play again until January 30 at McEwen.

"We do have a big one Friday," Jean said. "Anytime we play Community it is going to be a battle, so we just have to come out focused and just be us."

MTCS 11 19 12 13-55

Forrest 16 15 11 19-61

MTCS (55): Abby Buckner 18, Cammie Adams 17, Emma Self 16, Jacye Wilkerson 4

3-point goals (2): Buckner 2

Free throws (15-for-21): Buckner 6-for-6, Adams 5-for-10, Self 4-for-5

Forrest (61): Laura Mealer 16, Caitlyn Yost 14, Kyleah Hengesbach 10, Grace Thrasher 8, Jaide Langley 6, Madison Curtis 4, Katey Harmon 2

3-point goals (4): Yost 2, Curtis, Mealer

Free throws (15-for-29): Langley 4-for-4, Mealer 4-for-7, Hengesbach 4-for-8, Thrasher 2-for-4, Curtis 1-for-6

Halftime score: Forrest 31, MTCS 30