Rockets take barnburner at Nolensville

Friday, February 2, 2018
Ryley McClaran drives to the hoop for two of his team-high 21 points in the Rockets’ 69-65 overtime win at Nolensville Tuesday night.
Tribune Photos by Anthony S. Puca

Forrest’s Ryley McClaran shattered Corey Shankle’s single game scoring record of 40 points on Friday night in an 80-66 win at Giles County when he poured in 51 points versus the Bobcats.

On Tuesday night at Nolensville, McClaran and his band of rockin Rockets turned in another dramatic performance, gutting out a 69-65 overtime win that had every twist and turn imaginable.

“Your gonna have fun watching us play,” Forrest coach Randy Toombs said. “You will get you money’s worth, win or lose you will get your money’s worth.”

McClaran scored a team-high 22 points, while Sam Ford (14), Jacob Rich (14), and Ty Hengesbach (13) were all in doubles figures in the scoring column.

At the end of an unforgettable first quarter, the Rockets trailed 22-10 and early in the second, an alley-oop dunk by Nate Bloedorn gave the Knights a 27-13 lead.

Ty Hengesbach buries one of his three 3-pointers in the game.

The Rockets were undeterred as Hengesbach nailed a 3-pointer and moments later McClaran made one too to slice the Nolensville lead to 27-20.

Forrest clawed its back in the game from the free throw line as Ford made two and Hengesbach made a pair as well, while Nolensville scored just one more point before the first half ended with the Rockets trailing by four points at 28-24.

The Rockets came storming out of the locker room as McClaran drilled a pair of 3-pointers sandwiched around a Ford bucket in the paint to surge in front 32-28.

“I told them at the half that they had to start looking for their shots,” Toombs said. “They had to start looking instead of going around the perimeter because we couldn’t get it inside.”

“We were going to make them come out and if they did, we were going to drive and try to get fouls on them.”

Forrest maintained the four-point lead for a couple of possessions before really taking a leap forward, beginning with a Rich 3-pointer from somewhere in the parking lot and after a Knight’s turnover, Rich scored again, forcing a Nolensville timeout with 3:10 remaining in the period.

The Knights coughed the ball up out of the stoppage and Ford scored on back-to-back possessions to extend Forrest’s lead to 45-32.

From that point in the third quarter to the 1:18 mark of the fourth period, the Knights outscored the Rockets 22-4 to take a 54-49 lead and things looked bleak for Forrest, but these guys don’t give up.

Rich buried both ends of a one-and-one opportunity from the free throw line with 51.5 seconds left in the game and Nolensville’s Jayden Watkins came up with a big put-back at the other end.

McClaran rained home a 3-pointer to slice the Nolensville lead to 56-54 and after a Forrest timeout with 34.7 seconds remaining in the game, the Rockets’ pressing defense forced an over and back.

The Rockets inbounded the ball at midcourt and scrambled to find an opening as the ball eventually wound up in the hands of McClaran in the corner in front of the Forrest bench.

In a desperation heave, McClaran sent the ball towards the basket and incredibly, was fouled by Nolensville.

After a long discussion by the referees, McClaran was awarded three free throws and a chance to win the game.

On his first attempt, two Nolensville students ran under the basket and distracted McClaran, who missed the first shot.

The students were removed from the spot and McClaran calmly buried the next two free throws to send the game to overtime.

The lefty gunslinger drilled a 3-pointer from downtown to kick off the extra period of high drama.

The two teams traded baskets for a little while as Forrest held a two-point lead and then Chapel Hill capitalized on a huge chance to move ahead as Cameron Curtis stepped to the foul line with 1:34 remaining in the game and made two foul shots to put the Rockets up by four points at 65-61.

Brandon Wharton scored on a put-back for the Knights and then Forrest was called for an over and back and Bloedorn scored in the low post, tying the game at 65.

McClaran scored on a weird play as the ball skipped off the side of the backboard and in the basket and then Rich came up with the defensive play of the game, stealing the ball away from the Knights.

“They are beginning to be a group that wants to go get the ball and we have to have that,” Toombs said. “If you go get it and have it more than the other team, than you will have more chances and we want more chances to shoot the ball.”

Sam Ford muscles in a fourth quarter basket for the Rockets.

Ford was fouled and he stepped to line and drained both foul shots with ice water running through his veins with 9.5 seconds left to seal the improbable comeback for the Rockets.

“I just stepped up with confidence and tried to do my best to hit them,” Ford said. “That was the wildest and longest lasting game I have ever played in.”

“Coach told us at the half to believe and nobody can beat us but us and we just went out and played hard and won.”

Forrest (10-13, 6-1) leads the District 12-AA standings and have handed the Knights (10-11, 4-2) their only two league losses of the season.

“It is what it is,” Toombs said. “It was fun to watch and we came out on top. They are a great ballclub and we will never take them lightly.”

The Rockets can take a monumental step in capturing the newly formed district title when they travel to Lewisburg tonight in a re-match showdown with the Tigers (16-7, 4-2).

“We are good, if we can go into Giles County and do what we did than I don’t think it gets much tougher than that, I really don’t,” Toombs said. “Marshall County will be a tough game and I am not taking them lightly whatsoever.”

“But if we can go into Giles County and do what these boys did, we can win anywhere now.”

Forrest beat MCHS 76-65 at Chapel Hill 11 days ago.

“That will be a tough one, but if we can sweep this team and the Tigers too that would be big for us because they were the two teams favored to win this district,” Ford said.

Forrest 10 14 21 11 13-69

Nolensville 22 6 10 18 9-65

Forrest (69): Ryley McClaran 22, Sam Ford 14, Jacob Rich 14, Ty Hengesbach 13, Cameron Curtis 4, Martin Stewart 2.

Free Throws (15-for-21): McClaran 4-for-8, Ford 4-for-4, Rich 3-for-3, Hengesbach 2-for-4, Curtis 2-for-2.

3-Point Goals (8): McClaran 4, Hengesbach 3, Rich.

Nolensville (65): Nate Bloedorn 26, Hudson Stromen 14, Brandon Wharton 10, Nathan Foutch 7, Zach Campbell 4, Jayden Watkins 2, Reese Gilbert 2.

Free Throws (11-for-21): Bloedorn 6-for-12, Wharton 2-for-4, Stromen 2-for-2, Foutch 1-for-1, Campbell 0-for-2.

2-Point Goals (2): Stromen 2.

Halftime Score: Nolensville 28, Forrest 28.

End of Regulation: Forrest 56, Nolensville 56.