Mealer game winner sends Lady Rockets to region semis

Saturday, February 24, 2018
Laura Mealer (on floor) looks up with the rest of the people in the gym as her last second, game winning shot falls through the hoop at Creekwood Friday night.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

The Forrest Lady Rockets were staring down elimination Friday night at Creekwood in the opening round of the Region 6-AA Tournament before a fourth quarter comeback, capped off by a buzzer beating layup by freshman Laura Mealer gave Chapel Hill a 35-34 win.

“We had two plays called, one for zone and one for man (defense) and either way, I thought we were going to score,” Forrest coach Jeremy Jean said. “It was an accumulation from all year long…they fight for each other, they play hard for each other and they made the big plays late in the game and executed really well.”

“I’m just happy as heck for them and they really deserve it.”

Carissa Curtis knocks down a jump shot for two of her game-high 16 points.

Forrest freshman Carissa Curtis led all scorers in the contest with 16 points and was the only Lady Rocket in double figures, while Lydia Edmondson (14) and Allie Burgess (11) were in double digits for Creekwood.

The win sent the top-seeded Lady Red Hawks (26-5) packing up their lockers for the season and catapulted number four-seeded Forrest (19-9) to the semifinal round Monday night versus Nolensville (20-8), who hammered Camden 58-22.

Forrest lost twice to the region tournament host Lady Knights this season by two points and by five points.

In other first round Region 6-AA games Friday night, Community (19-11) beat East Hickman 52-42 and will host the Marshall County Tigerettes (21-7), who traveled to Stewart County (23-6) and beat the District 11-AA number two seed Lady Rebels 43-36.

The winners of Monday night’s semifinals play for the region title on Wednesday and are guaranteed a spot in the state sectional round on Friday, March 3.

Funny how things turn out.

It was the state sectional game last season when the then eighth-grader Mealer had a chance to send the game versus Perry County into overtime with two converted foul shots, but missed the second after making the first attempt and Forrest’s season was over.

On Friday night at Creekwood, Mealer picked up her senior teammate Grace Thrasher, who missed two free throws with 3.3 seconds remaining in the game and Forrest trailing by one point.

On Thrasher’s missed second free throw, the Lady Rockets got the ball back on a Mealer tie-up on the floor and after Forrest called timeout with 1.4 seconds left in the contest, Jaide Langley inbounded the ball to a soaring Mealer, who laid the rock off the dish and through net as she fell to floor with double zeros on the clock.

“They were expecting Carissa to come through and shoot a three and coach told us in the timeout if they were in a zone, pin them in and we’ll toss it up to Laura on a lob and win the ballgame.” Mealer said. “This feels good after last year and my teammates were always behind, so I really wanted to win for them.”

Forrest had trailed by seven points early in the fourth quarter in a game that was close the entire night with no team holding more than a four-point lead in the first half.

Creekwood also led by four points at 29-25 at the end of the third period and scored the first three points in the fourth quarter from the free throw line to go up 32-25.

“We just knew we couldn’t give up because we didn’t want the season to be over yet,” Mealer said.

Missed foul shots doomed the Lady Red Hawks, who had 16 attempts and missed nine, including the front end of three one-and-one opportunities inside the five-minute mark.

Grace Thrasher scores in the low post to put the Lady Rockets in front 32-31.

Every time Creekwood missed, Forrest took advantage and scored to give themselves a chance to win it late and they did on their final opportunity to stay alive for another game.

“These girls make me look smart, I’m not that smart,” Jean said. “They did a great job of being down by six and winning by one.”

“All we can do is keep playing as good as we can and end the night at 1-0 on that night.” Jean said.

Jaide Langley scores to give Forrest the lead with 2:46 remaining in the game.

Forrest 12 6 7 10-35

Creekwood 12 7 10 5-34

Forrest (35): Carissa Curtis 16, Jaide Langley 9, Grace Thrasher 6, Katey Harmon 2, Laura Mealer 2.

Free Throws (3-for-9): Thrasher 2-for-5, Langley 1-for-2, Harmon 0-for-2.

3-Point Goals (2): Curtis 2.

Creekwood (34): Lydia Edmondson 14, Allie Burgess 11, Sam Kilian 5, Raegan Hohl 4.

Free Throws (7-for-16): Edmondson 4-for-8, Hohl 2-for-3, Burgess 1-for-2, Kilian 0-for-2, Elayna Gass 0-for-1, Anna Edmondson 0-for-1.

Halftime Score: Creekwood 19, Forrest 18.