Rockets beat Lewisburg, remain unbeaten in district
The Forrest Rockets and Marshall County Tigers took a trip in the way-back machine Monday at Chapel Hill as the intra-county rivals met in a regular season district game for the first time since 1972.
It was an exciting game for the packed house as the two squads had a lot to play for and it showed with Forrest (8-12) notching a huge 76-63 comeback win to remain undefeated at 4-0 in District 12-AA play.
“This is very cool, that was huge, I can’t express how big this is,” Forrest coach Randy Toombs said. “I’m not familiar with the rivalries and so forth and how long since somebody played, but not having played since 1972.”
“Always a bigger school, their programs are always top notch and we were able to do what we did tonight, I don’t know if proud even explains that.”
The Tigers (13-7, 1-2) had the upper hand for most of the first half, banging home six, first quarter 3-pointers to take a 27-17 lead to period number two.
“We knew KJ was their best player of course,” Forrest’s Ryley McClaran said. “He was really hot there in the first quarter, so when we started face guarding him it helped and it also helped when he got into foul trouble.”
Lewisburg sharpshooter KJ Johnson scored 14 out of his game-high 25 points in the first quarter.
A Canelius Turner 3-pointer gave Marshall County a 10-point, 36-26 lead midway through the second quarter.
“I’m telling you, KJ is a player,” Toombs said. “I’m proud of my boys and proud of Ryley for what he fought through, but that kid is fun to watch and I’m looking forward to watching him at the next level.”
The Rockets made a comeback by slowly chipping away at the MCHS lead until a Ryley McClaran bucket capped a 7-0 run for Forrest to slice the Tigers’ lead to 36-33.
Back-to-back MCHS baskets by Keshun Gentry and Jaleel Howard made it 40-33 before Jacob Rich converted one free throw for the Rockets, who trailed 40-34 at the halftime break.
Sam Ford scored for Forrest to begin the second half and moments later, McClaran made it a two-point game on two free throws, but a Turner trey, followed by two Johnson foul shots staved off the Rockets, but just momentarily.
With less than two minutes remaining in the third period, McClaran tied the game at 48 on a runner in the lane, but Gentry matched it.
McClaran, who led the Rockets in the scoring column with 23 points, made both ends of a one-and-one to make it 50-50 and after a Marcus Dodson bucket in the low post for Lewisburg, McClaran re-knotted the game once again on another drive through traffic.
With the game tied at 56 after a Dodson bucket, Ty Hengesbach drained a long bomb to put Forrest in front 59-56.
Chapel Hill did not trail again.
The Tigers scored on an Ak’y Howard basket before Martin Stewart came up with the play of the game on an inspired rebound and put-back that fired up the Forrest faithful.
“At halftime the first thing I said to Martin was I’m giving it to you and you’re not finishing at the rim and if I give it to you one more time and you don’t finish, you’ll be sitting over here watching and I’ll give somebody else a try,” Toombs said. “I guess he believed me.”
“I have harped and harped and harped on him, finish at the rim man. You’re big enough, You’re strong enough, you can get there and if you finish at the rim they have got to either foul you or make a helluva block.”
A missed MCHS field goal led to a Jacob Rich 3-pointer and after an offensive foul on Marshall County, McClaran hit one of two from the free throw to give the Rockets a 65-58 lead with 4:27 left in the game.
A Tiger turnover turned into a Ford bucket in the low post as the Rockets began to pull away, but a Johnson 3-pointer stopped the MCHS scoring drought.
The Rockets called timeout and Stewart scored another electric low post bucket to give Forrest an eight-point lead that they took to the end for the win.
“The atmosphere was great tonight,” McClaran said. “If they come put here like that every night, it will be hard to beat us and we felt it on the court too.”
McClaran (23), Hengesbach (12), Stewart (10), and Jacob Rich (10) were all in double figures in the scoring column for Forrest, who embarked on a four-game district road trip with stops at Murfreesboro Central Magnet (12-9, 2-1), Giles County (3-11, 0-3), Nolensville (8-10, 2-1), and to Lewisburg on February 2.
The Tigers also took to the highway with trips to Giles County, Community, Murfreesboro Central Magnet, and Nolensville before their rematch with the Rockets.
Marshall County 27 13 12 11-63
Forrest 17 17 18 24-76
Marshall County (63): KJ Johnson 25, Canelius Turner 15, Markus Dodson 8, Keshun Gentry 6, Ak’y Howard 5, Jaleel Howard 2, Taylor Clark 2.
Free Throws (9-for-13): KJ Johnson 9-for-11, Clark 0-for-2.
3-Point Goals (10): Turner 5, Johnson 4, Ak’y Howard.
Forrest (76): Ryley McClaran 23, Ty Hengesbach 12, Martin Stewart 10, Jacob Rich 10, Mitchell Everette 6, Sam Ford 6, Cameron Curtis 5, Spencer McCown 4.
Free Throws (21-for-30): McClaran 8-for-10, Stewart 4-for-6, Hengesbach 4-for-4, Rich 3-for-4, Ford 0-for-4, Everette 2-for-2.
3-Points Goals (5): Hengesbach 2, McClaran, Rich, Curtis.
Halftime Score: Marshall County 40, Forrest 34.