Lady Rockets escape region upset
After a third place finish in the District 9A Tournament, the Forrest Lady Rockets traveled to Clarksville Academy for a first-round Region 5A Tournament game.
The number two seeded Lady Cougars were ready and took Forrest to the limit before a fourth-quarter comeback secured a 50-44 win for Chapel Hill.
“Clarksville Academy played really good, but I’m really proud of my kids for never quitting and never doubting,” Forrest coach Jeremy Jean said. “We had some kids step up and get some big boards, big shots, big stops, so I’m really happy.”
With the win, Forrest (24-7) takes on the District 9A Tournament champions Huntland (27-5) for the fourth time this season in the region semifinals tonight in a 6 p.m. tip-off at Eagleville.
Moore County (24-3) takes on Community (17-11) in the other semifinal in an all-District 9A region tournament.
The Lady Hornets had beaten Forrest in the semifinals of the district tournament and at Huntland earlier in the season, while the Lady Rockets won at Chapel Hill.
“This will be the seventh time we have played them (Huntland) in less than a year,” Jean said. “We know them, they know us, so it will go down to who steps up and makes the big plays and with these kids I have on my team I like our chances.”
Forrest got off to a decent start at Clarksville Academy, leading 8-7 at the three minute mark of the first quarter before the Lady Cougars ran off 11 straight points sparked by a pair of 3-pointers by Presleigh Sykes to end the period with an 18-8 lead.
Caitlyn Yost, who led all scorers in the game with 21 points, knocked down a short jumper to kick off the second quarter and Grace Thrasher followed with a rebound and put-back, making it 18-12.
Clarksville Academy followed with an Anna Cherry 3-pointer and Sydneey Bokin bucket before Emma Stacey came off the bench to score four points in a 5-0 Forrest run to end the first half as the Lady Rockets trailed 23-19.
Kyleah Hengesbach nailed two free throws to begin the second half to cut the deficit to two points, but that would be as close as Forrest would get in the third period that ended with the Lady Cougars in front 35-31.
Jaide Langley drilled a 3-pointer for Forrest to start the fourth quarter, but Clarksville staved off the visitors to regain a five-point lead at 39-34.
This time Forrest would not be denied as Hengesbach and Laura Mealer came up with back-to-back buckets, cutting the lead to one point at 39-38, forcing a Clarksville Academy timeout with 4:53 remaining in the contest.
“It definitely wasn’t easy, they were a really good team and we didn’t play how we wanted to early,” Hengesbach said. “We started to pick it up and got our heads right, so it was definitely a battle but we are just really happy that we came out on top.”
The Lady Cougars coughed the ball up after the stoppage and Thrasher went to the free throw line after being fouled and calmly drained both charity shots to put the Lady Rockets in front 40-39.
“We practice free throws a lot in practice and we know how important they are,” Thrasher said. “I just knew I needed to make them and I did.”
Sykes went to the free throw line with a chance to regain the lead, but missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity and Yost scored at the other end, making it 42-39.
A missed Clarksville Academy shot led to a pair of Yost free throws, giving Forrest a 44-39 lead with just over two minutes left in the game.
The Lady Cougars had one last run as they scored five straight points that tied the game at 44 with 1:01 remaining, but from there Forrest sealed the deal with a 6-0 run to end the game and secure a spot in the semifinals versus the Lady Hornets.
“We just kept fighting and clawing our way up and thank goodness we did,” Thrasher said. “Coach Jean will tell us what to do and get us prepared like he always does, so we are ready.”
Forrest 8 11 12 19-50
Clarksville Academy 18 5 12 9-44
Forrest (50): Caitlyn Yost 21, Laura Mealer 7, Jaide Langley 7, Kyleah Hengesbach 4, Emma Stacey 4, Katey Harmon 1
3-point goals (2): Yost, Langley
Free throws (12-for-17): Yost 4-for-4, Hengesbach 2-for-4, Langley 2-for-4, Thrasher 2-for-2, Harmon 1-for-2, Mealer 2-for-2
Clarksville Academy (44): Sydneey Bokin 15, Presleigh Sykes 8, Keisha Phillips 7, Vana Pridgen 7, Anna Cherry 3, Aaryn Moss 2, Ashley Roberts 2
3-point goals (4): Sykes 2, Bokin, Cherry
Free throws (4-for-9): Bokin 2-for-5, Phillips 1-for-1, Pridgen 1-for-2, Sykes 0-for-1
Halftime score: Clarksville Academy 23, Forrest 19