Raiders end Rockets season in D9A play-in game

Friday, February 17, 2017
Forrest senior Austin Bailey (14) snakes down the lane for the game tying layup in the fourth quarter of the Rockets’ season ending loss to Moore County.
Tribune photos by Mike Inglsbee

One of the harder things to do in the game of basketball is to beat an opponent three times in one season and that was exactly the scenario before the Forrest Rockets (6-24) took on Moore County (3-23) in Saturday’s District 9A play-in game at Huntland.

Forrest fans experienced a Deja vu of sorts as the Raiders bounced the Rockets out of the tournament for the second straight season by way of two Clay Burnett free throws with two seconds left for a 42-40 loss.

"We weren't focused enough on the boards and we weren't focused enough on taking care of the ball," Forrest coach Randy Toombs said. "That's the one thing we've had issues with the entire season is taking care of the ball."

"We got caught standing and watching," Toombs added. "They out hustled us. They got the win."

One of the fiercest rivals in the mid-state, both programs have fallen on hard times, but Forrest entered the post-season with an impressive victory over Perry County and the Raiders took a win over a tough Culleoka squad before playing a tight contest with 2A Cascade to end the season.

Forrest dominated the Raiders during regular season play the past two regular seasons including a 14-point win over the Raiders just eight days prior to Saturday's matchup.

"I think when a team beats you twice, I've never been in the situation of being beaten twice and playing someone a third time, but I know they came out motivated both years and were ready to go," FHS junior guard Jacob Rich said. "We were ready to go too, but they were extra motivated and they just came out and executed better than we did."

Jacob Rich (30) knocks down a runner to bring the Rockets to within a bucket in the fourth quarter.

Rich led the Rockets with 13 points, Ty Hengesbach added nine points, and Tyler Wildrick chipped in eight points and three blocks.

The Raiders were led by Burnett with 23 points and Garrett Jennings with 10 points.

The Rockets took a slight edge at 12-11 after one quarter with four points each from Wildrick and Martin Stewart.

Rich came alive in the second period with two 3-pointers to head into the half with a slight 26-22 advantage.

Isaac Holt scored a layup two minutes into the third period to tie the game at 26, but Hengesbach answered with a three-point play as the Rockets reclaimed the lead.

Rich knocked down a triple to push the lead to 32-26 before Burnett answered with a layup to chip the lead to 32-28 heading into the final quarter.

The Raiders dominated the final period, taking a 36-32 lead on a Burnett layup for a 10 point Raider swing, but the Rockets fought back tying the game at 40 on a Bailey drive and layup with 32 seconds remaining.

An out of control Raider seemingly committed a charge, but a different referee inexplicably gave the Raiders a timeout to nullify the call.

With overtime looming, Burnett drove into the heart of the Raider defense and threw up a prayer that was answered by way of a controversial foul call.

Burnett calmly stepped to the foul line and sank both free throws with two seconds remaining, ending the Rockets season.

"As far as I'm concerned that guy was falling down and slinging the ball up," Toombs said. "My guy tells me he touched the ball period, but he blows the foul. The referee decided the game. He didn't let the kids decide it. I don't care for that."

Moore County 11 11 6 14-42

Forrest 12 14 6 8-40

Moore County (42): Clay Burnett 23, Garrett Jennings 10, Isaac Holt 5, Dylan Knight 4

3-point goals (3): Burnett 3

Forrest 40): Jacob Rich 13, Ty Hengesbach 9, Tyler Wildrick 8, Austin Bailey 5, Martin Stewart 4, Spencer McCown 1

3-point goals (4): Rich 3, Bailey

Halftime score: Forrest 26, Moore County 22