Forrest grinds out R5A title, one win from state
Wednesday night’s Region 5A championship game probably was not pleasing to the eye, but the Forrest Lady Rockets did not care as they outlasted Moore County 33-32 to claim their first region title in six years.
“It was a game of ups and downs and momentum swings, it was a typical tournament game, both teams fought really, really hard,” Forrest coach Jeremy Jean said. “We didn’t’ play that great, but it doesn’t matter, it’s about surviving.”
Forrest (26-7) hosts a familiar foe on Saturday as Region 6A Tournament runner-up Perry County (17-15) makes its second trip of the season to Chapel Hill with a Class A State Tournament berth on the line.
“We wanted that home game so bad and we were going to do anything to get it,” Forrest seniors Kyleah Hengesbach and Caitlyn Yost said in unison. “We have to be fearless, it’s do or die now.”
Forrest has beaten the Lady Vikings twice this season by an average margin of 24.5 points.
“They (Perry County) have been playing really good right now, their little point guard (Chyna Brooks) has been averaging 30 points a night here lately,” Jean said. “So we have to find a way to stop her, but they have to stop us too.”
Moore County (25-4) travels to Region 6A winner Summertown (24-9) and unfortunately will be without the services of junior standout Kursten Hawkins, who suffered a serious knee injury just before halftime versus Forrest.
The Lady Rockets did not have a player in double digits in the scoring column as eighth-grader Laura Mealer was the leading scorer for Forrest with eight points, including a 3-pointer and a huge rebound and put-back in the third quarter.
Yost and freshman Jaide Langley had seven points apiece, Hengesbach had five, Grace Thrasher netted four points, and Katey Harmon posted a deuce.
Forrest fell behind early in the game as Moore County took a 10-6 lead behind a pair of 3-pointers by Kinsley Logan.
Yost found Hengesbach on a breakaway bucket to make it 10-8 and Langley tied the game with a steal and score on Moore County’s next possession.
Both squads missed a couple of easy layups and the final two points of the first period came on two Hengesbach free throws, giving Forrest a 12-10 lead.
Mealer scored to kick off period number two and hit one free throw several possessions later to make it 15-10.
The Lady Rockets could have built an even bigger lead, but could not get a couple more easy layups to drop, letting the Lady Raiders stay close.
Kinsley scored with 4:45 left in the third quarter, but Langley followed with a 3-pointer, giving Forrest a six-point lead at 18-12.
The Raiderettes fought back, going on a 7-0 run and eventually took the lead at 19-18 on a Hawkins drive to the basket where she was fouled with just over two minutes to play in the first half.
Hawkins’ free throw attempt was no good as the ball ricocheted off the rim and Hawkins and Mealer battled for the ball and dove out of bounds together.
Mealer got up, unfortunately Hawkins did not and was eventually carried to the Moore County dressing room and later transported to the hospital with a knee injury.
“That was terrible,” Hengesbach and Yost said. “It’s a good thing it’s not her senior year, which would be awful.”
Both squads seemed to suffer a letdown after the Hawkins injury and the first half ended with the same 19-18 Moore County advantage.
The Raiderettes came out in the second half with renewed spirit due to the Hawkins injury and scored the first three points to take a 21-19 lead before the Forrest youngsters came up huge.
“When Kursten got hurt, they were playing for her and gave us a great run for our money,” Hengesbach and Yost said. “We knew they would not quit just like Huntland, they tried for her, but we just ended up on top.”
Langley scored on a rebound and put-back to tie the game and three possessions later, Mealer buried a 3-pointer and followed with a rebound basket to make it a 26-21 contest.
“This feels great, Coach Jean said the team with the most energy would win and our student section really helped us out,” Mealer said. “It feels great, we have one more win to get to state, so if we come out together and play as a team we will win.”
Once again, Moore County came back, making it a one-point game at 26-25 on a Chrissy Lockhart bucket in the low post and one free throw by Cauble.
Forrest took the single digit lead to fourth period and Harmon made it a three-point game with a driving layup.
A Raiderettes’ missed shot led to one free throw by Hengesbach and after three more Moore County misses, Hengesbach followed with a drive to the hoop, making it a 31-27 ballgame with 3:26 remaining in the contest.
Two Lockhart free throws a minute later tightened up the game at 31-29 and with 2:20 left in the title tilt, Logan scored on a drive to put Moore County in the lead at 32-31.
Forrest was unsuccessful on their next offensive touch, but got the ball back on a Moore County offensive foul that led to a go-ahead jumper by Yost, forcing a Raiderettes’ timeout with 1:01 remaining in the game.
Moore County coach Amy Josephson rolled the dice and came up with a gusty decision to hold the ball for the last shot in an attempt to win the game, but a drive to the hoop was no good and as several players scrambled to the floor for the rebound, time ran out and the Lady Rockets and their huge travelling crowd celebrated the win.
“It was a great crowd and again tonight the crowd really helped us out,” Jean said. “When things didn’t go our way they started cheering them on and the girls hit another gear, so I hope we see them all again Saturday night.”
Yost, Hengesbach and Mealer were all selected to the All-Region 5A Tournament Team; along with Hawkins, Logan and Taylor Holcombe from Moore County, Erin Thompson and Alyssa Freeman (Community), and Ali Golden and Caylee McLennan (Huntland).
Moore County 10 9 6 7-32
Forrest 12 6 8 7-33
Moore County (32): Kinsley Logan 10, Chrissy Lockhart 6, Kursten Hawkins 6, Faith Cauble 5, Katie Thomas 3, Taylor Holcombe 2
3-point goals (3): Logan 2, Cauble
Free throws (5-for-6): Cauble 2-for-2, Lockhart 2-for-2, Thomas 1-for-1, Hawkins 0-for-1
Forrest (33): Laura Mealer 8, Caitlyn Yost 7, Jaide Langley 7, Kyleah Hengesbach 5, Grace Thrasher 4, Katey Harmon 2
3-point goals (2): Langley, Mealer
Free throws (6-for-11): Hengesbach 3-for-4, Yost 2-for-5, Mealer 1-for-2
Halftime score: Moore County 19, Forrest 18