Rockets falter late in loss to Huntland

Sunday, February 5, 2017
Austin Bailey (14) gets hacked and fouled by two Huntland defenders in the Rockets’ 55-51 loss to the Hornets Tuesday night at Chapel Hill.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

The Forrest Rockets have lost five District 9A games in a row, but three of them have been close setbacks, including a heartbreaking 55-51 loss to Huntland Tuesday night at Chapel Hill.

“It seems like those guys fight so hard and not to get rewarded is tough to swallow,” Forrest coach Randy Toombs said. “I seem to be saying the same postgame remarks the last three games. ‘Keep your head up, you have nothing to be ashamed of, we just have to persevere and keep trucking on learning from our mistakes and at some point the ball will bounce our way’.”

The contest was a foul-filled affair with the two squads shooting a combined 57 free throws and the score changed hands several times until a Rahul Patel free throw with two minutes remaining in the game sealed the win for the Hornets.

Forrest’s Sam Ford (24) nails a 3-pointer in the Rockets’ big third quarter comeback.

“This team has gone through its share of setbacks, but they keep showing up to practice and keep working hard to improve,” Toombs stated. “I saw some improvements from our post players and it was great to have them fight as hard as they did. I'm very proud of them.”

Patel had a huge impact on the final score, scoring eight fourth quarter points, including stealing the ball and converting a three-point play the old fashioned with 2:52 left in the game.

Forrest put up a gallant effort the entire night, coming from behind time and time again, highlighted by a Ty Hengesbach 3-pointer after Patel’s three point play to cut the Huntland lead to one point.

After Will Rector scored to once again make it a three-point game, Hengesbach drilled an off balance trey to tie the game at 51.

Hengesbach and Jacob Rich tied for game-high scoring honors with 16 points apiece.

Hengesbach nailed three 3-pointers in the contest and went 7-for-8 from the free throw line, while Rich had two treys and shot a perfect 3-for-3 from the charity stripe.

The first quarter seemed like an eternity as foul after foul were called with Huntland jumping out to a 7-0 lead.

Forrest trailed by as many as 10 points in the period at 13-3 before a 6-1 Forrest run made it 14-9 at the end of the first quarter.

Rich led the comeback, nailing a 3-pointer and then hitting three foul shots with zero time on the clock after being hacked on a half court attempte.

The Rockets engaged big time at the outset of the second quarter, scoring five straight points to tie the game at 14 on a Mitchell Everett rebound and put-back.

It was a seesaw affair the remainder of the second half and Dylan Watt gave Forrest a 22-20 lead that was increased by two more points when Austin Bailey converted a field goal.

After a Huntland turnover, Bailey followed with one free throw to make it 25-20.

Trey Kelley scored for Huntland before a Hengesbach 3-pointer made it 28-22, but six straight points by the Hornets, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Bryson Foster tied the game at 28 at the break.

Huntland began the second half with a 6-0 run to grab a six-point lead, but the Rockets stormed back again with a 14-4 run to take a 42-38 lead after three quarters.

Twelve out of the 14 points scored in the period came from downtown as Rich nailed two 3-pointers and Hengesbach and Sam Ford had one trey apiece for the Rockets.

Forrest took a six-point, 44-38 lead early in the fourth quarter when Hengesbach found Everett wide open for a layup before the Hornets came back to tie the contest at 46 on the Kelley free throw.

Patel did his magic to give Huntland a 52-51 lead and two Kelley free throws with 52.9 seconds increased the margin to three points.

Forrest (4-22) could not complete the final comeback for the win and fell to 2-9 in league play with a huge contest looming at Moore County (1-21, 0-11) tonight.

If the Rockets win at Lynchburg, they tie with Fayetteville (6-18, 3-8) for fifth place and a subsequent winning coin toss will let Forrest avoid a play-in game with seventh-place Moore County.

“It should be a fun night in Lynchburg Friday night----the girls are playing for first seed outright and we are fighting to stay out of the play-in game,” Toombs said.

Huntland 14 14 10 17-55

Forrest 9 19 14 19-51

Huntland (55): Trey Kelley 15, Will Rector 11, Rahul Patel 11, Bryson Foster 8, Zach Stovall 5, Kaleb Ashley 2, Blake McDonald 2, Jarod Pendleton 1

3-point goals (2): Foster, Patel

Free throws (17-for-34): Kelley 5-for-8, Patel 4-for-8, Stovall 3-for-8, McDonald 2-for-4, Rector 1-for-2, Foster 1-for-2, Pendleton 1-for-2

Forrest (51): Ty Hengesbach 16, Jacob Rich 16, Austin Bailey 6, Sam Ford 5, Mitchell Everett 4, Tim Elliot 2, Dylan Watt 2

3-point goals (7): Hengesbach 3, Rich 3, Ford

Free throws (14-for-23): Hengesbach 7-for-8, Rich 3-for-3, Ford 2-for-2, Bailey 2-for-8, Everett 0-for-2

Halftime score: Forrest 28, Huntland 28