Lady Rockets smother McEwen for four wins in a row
The Forrest Lady Rockets are off to a solid 2017 campaign, sporting a 6-2 record after blasting McEwen 56-36 Tuesday night at Chapel Hill.
“I am very pleased with where we are sitting record wise, anytime you can get some wins early it is a good thing,” Forrest coach Jeremy Jean said. “And in our two loses, if we do a few of the little things better we could have been in the games late with a chance to win.”
Forrest has won four in a row and seems to have a nice mix on the court this season after the loss of several key players from last year.
“With losing the starters that we lost off last year’s team, we are going through a learning curve by having to step outside the roles that they played last year into bigger roles of having to score the ball and grab those rebounds,” Jean said. “It is a learning time for the coaches as well, trying to find the lineups that work well together at particular times, needing a stop, or needing a bucket.”
“I feel like we will only get better as the year progresses.”
The Lady Rockets are also without the services of last year’s eighth-grade sensation Laura Mealer, who may be back for district tournament in February after undergoing shoulder surgery.
“Not having Mealer takes an athlete off the floor that can run and rebound very well,” Jean said. “At the time of her surgery, she was to be out six months, which would put her returning around tourney time. That is what we are planning on, anything any earlier will be a plus.”
Senior Madison Curtis is also on the shelf after suffering a high ankle sprain versus Perry on November 30.
“She (Curtis) is working really hard at getting back as soon as possible, she has her own bucket for icing in the gym that she is in anytime she can be,” Jean stated.
The Forrest seniors are Madison Curtis, Grace Thrasher, Katey Harmon and Emma Stacey.
There are no juniors on the squad, but the sophomore class includes Jaide Langley, Shea Lewis, and Anna and Ally Blanton, while the freshmen players are Mealer, Carissa Curtis and Cassidy Stewart.
It was not a contest from the outset Tuesday night as the Lady Rockets began the game with a furious high energy start on the defensive end and the glass that produced a 9-2 lead.
Harmon had a rebound and put-back that turned into two free throws, Anna Blanton scored on a fast break bucket, Thrasher made one free throw after grabbing a tough rebound in traffic, and Stacey fed Carissa Curtis on an end-to-end score.
The Lady Warriors hung tough, outscoring Forrest 5-3 the remainder of the period to trail 12-7.
“We started well defensively last night, if we could have had some of those shots fall earlier, we could have scored in the thirties in the first quarter,” Jean said. “Defensively we have been solid so far this year and that was a point of emphasis in the summer and preseason. We have to be able to make teams take shots that they don't want to take.”
Langley, who has been nursing a golf injury sparked a 7-0 Lady Rockets’ run with two free throws and a 3-pointer followed by another Anna Blanton drive to the hoop to make it a 19-7 ballgame.
Erica Yearout finally scored for McEwen with 3:43 left in the second quarter to make it 19-9 before Forrest took off again with an 8-3 burst to end the first half behind four points by Curtis, a rebound and put-back by Thrasher, and a pair of charity shots by Harmon.
Forrest took a 17-point lead to the second half and quickly put the Warriors away with a huge 9-2 run that was capped off by a Langley steal and score to make it a 38-14 contest.
“So far this team has had the killer instinct, once they smell blood they attack even harder,” Jean said. “We are getting a lot more deflections than we have gotten the past few years, which is leading to some fast break opportunities.”
The Lady Rockets led 45-23 entering the fourth quarter and held their biggest lead of the game at 26 points on a Langley bucket midway through the period.
From there Forrest cruised to the win behind a huge home crowd that was on hand for halftime festivities that featured a bevy of youth cheerleaders, joining the Forrest cheerleaders for a sparkling performance.
“The crowd was awesome,” Jean said. “The girls wanted to come out and play well hoping to get some of those guys to want to come back and watch them.”
“This team is a fun team to watch. They get after it on the defensive end and don't care who scores.”
The Lady Rockets have a big test tonight when they travel to Summertown (6-1) to play in the phone booth.
“Summertown is a well-coached and a really good team, easily top four this year,” Jean said. “That atmosphere can do two things to us. First, it could freak us out and take us out of our game. Second, it will feed our energy level and make us play even better. I think the second is what is going to happen.”
The Lady Eagles, who lost in the Class A state semifinals to eventual champion South Greene last year have won five in row.
McEwen 7 5 11 13-36
Forrest 12 15 18 11-56
McEwen (36): Cassidy Nihoff 14, Erica Yearout 9, Abi Henry 5, Paige Sanker 4, Heather Nihoff 2
3-point Goals: (4): Yearout 2, Henry, Cassidy Nihoff
Free Throws (8-for-14): Cassidy Nihoff 5-for-8, Sanker 2-for-2, Yearout 1-for-2, Henry 0-for-2
Forrest (56): Jaide Langley 16, Katey Harmon 10, Carissa Curtis 8, Grace Thrasher 7, Anna Blanton 6, Ally Blanton 5, Emma Stacey 3, Shea Lewis 1
3-point Goals (2): Langley 2
Free Throws (15-for-21): Harmon 5-for-5, Langley 4-for-6, Stacey 3-for-4, Ally Blanton 1-for-2, Shea Lewis 1-for-2, Thrasher 1-for-2
Halftime Score: Forrest 27, McEwen 12