Rockets lose game, win district title on tiebreaker
With the District 12-AA regular season title neatly tucked in their pocket via a win on a three-way tiebreaker, the Forrest Rockets still wanted to make a statement in Friday’s senior night matchup versus Murfreesboro Central Magnet, but fell late in a 46-45 loss.
“It was pretty crazy,” Forrest coach Randy Toombs said. “They gave us every opportunity to pull away, but we just blew it.”
“When you don’t knock down shots and the other team does and you are turning it over, it makes it tough to win.”
The top-seeded Rockets (12-15, 7-3) also earned a first-round bye in this week’s district tournament at Pulaski and a spot in the Region 6-AA Tournament next week at Nolensville.
The Rockets lost twice to Murfreesboro Central Magnet and once at Lewisburg in the regular season.
Forrest takes on Marshall County in Friday’s semifinal round at 6 p.m.
“I don’t like the long layoff, but that’s ok, I’ll take it,” Toombs said. “We need to work on our shooting and to figure out who our opponent is going to be and it could be these guys here again for a third time.”
The 12 wins marks the most victories for Forrest since 2013-2014 and the Rockets had not won a regular season district title since 2011-2012.
Forrest started fast versus the Tigers Friday night with Jacob Rich opening the scoring, Ty Hengesbach followed with a drive to the dish, and Sam Ford made it 7-0 with a 3-pointer in front of the Rocket student section.
Central Magnet proceeded to put up an 11-2 run that was capped off by a Nick Hamlett bucket before a Ryley McClaran basket at the end of the first quarter tied the contest at 11.
Rich drained a 3-pointer to kick off the second period, but the Tigers came back and took the lead midway through the quarter on a Michael Brown trey to make it a 17-15 contest.
Rich and McClaran scored on back-to-back possessions for Forrest to seesaw the lead back to the Rockets and the first half ended on a Hengesbach successful drive to basket, giving Chapel Hill a 21-19 lead at the break.
A Ford 3-pointer and two McClaran free throws matched Forrest biggest lead of the game at seven points early in the third quarter, but the Tigers kept hanging in and trailed 36-31, entering the final eight minutes of play.
With 5:50 remaining in the contest, Hengesbach scored to up Forrest’s lead to 42-34 and then the Tigers made their move with some help from poor free throw shooting by the Rockets as they climbed back in the game.
A Stephen Laird rebound and put-back with two minutes left in the game got the Tigers within one point of Forrest at 45-44.
The Rockets proceeded to miss the front end of a one-and-one opportunity from the free throw line and as time wound down in the game, Will Carver was fouled and he buried both ends of the bonus with 0.7 seconds remaining in the game to seal the win for the Tigers.
“We had a six point lead and missed free throws, we had a six point lead and missed a layup, you just can’t do it and turn around and let the other team go down here and get shots off---you just can’t do it.” Toombs said.
The Rockets had three players in double figures in the scoring column as McClaran posted 13, while Curtis and Rich netted 10 points apiece.
Sam Ford had six points, Ty Hengesbach four, and Mitchell Everett tallied two in his senior night game.
MCM 11 8 12 15-46
Forrest 11 10 15 9-45
MCM (46): Will Carver 15, Nick Hamlett 11, Stephen Laird 6, Michael Brown 6, Patrick Norman 5, Jayden Hernandez 3.
Free Throws (9-for-13): Carver 3-for-4, Lairds 2-for-4, Hamlett 3-for-3, Norman 1-for-2.
3-Point goals (5): Carver 2, Brown 2, Hernandez.
Forrest (45): Ryley McClaran 13, Cameron Curtis 10, Jacob Rich 10, Sam Ford 6, Ty Hengesbach 4, Mitchell Everett 2.
Free Throws (7-for-16): McClaran 6-for-8, Rich 1-for-5, Ford 0-for-2, Mitchell Everett 0-for-1.
3-Point goals (4): Curtis 2, Ford, Rich.
Halftime Score: Forrest 21, Murfreesboro Central Magnet 18.