Rockets grind out another beauty

Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Sam Ford (24) had a team-high 25 points for the Rockets, including four 3-pointers.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

Somethings got in to the Forrest Rockets, who played another solid, inspired game Monday night at Chapel Hill as they had to grind out a 70-67 win over the Lewis County Panthers.

“Lewis County has had a real nice run here lately,” Forrest coach Randy Toombs said. “I have been keeping up with their wins and losses and they have beaten some real good teams, so that was nice.”

“They are loaded with seniors and a couple of their kids have 1,000 points and he (Greg Amacher) does such a good job and is fun to coach with.”

After a long 10-day layoff due to the Houston County cancellation, the Rockets had a balanced scoring attack with Sam Ford leading the way with a team-high 25 points and four 3-pointers, including 20 points in the big second half.

Toombs talked about the long layoff saying, “He (Amacher) and I were both talking about that earlier when he said they were out of school and his kids were laying around not doing anything and he was worried about his group and I was worried about my group because we weren’t playing, so yeah we were both kind of worried about that.”

Cameron Curtis had another big night with 14 points and Martin Stewart came up huge for the Rockets with 12 points in the paint and several big rebounds.

Stewart, Ford, and Curtis also displayed some clutch free throw shooting as they all nailed a pair of charity shots with less than a minute to go in the game.

“That sure didn’t happen at the beginning, but it happened towards the end when it counted and that’s all that matters,” Toombs said. “To persevere and break through, it was nice to see that.”

Forrest needed a big night on offense as Lewis County came to play, especially from outside the 3-point arc as the Panthers made a remarkable 13 three-pointers in the contest.

Peyton Crowell went off with a game-high 30 points for Lewis County and drained eight treys, while Bryson Hinson had 22 points and four 3-pointers, and Mike Ortiz added 11 points and one 3-pointer.

That’s 54 out of a total 67 points on 3-pointers, which is almost inevitably hard to overcome, but somehow the Rockets did.

They did it with a determined grit on defense, some awesome athleticism on offense, crashing the boards all night long, and some smart play down the stretch.

Forrest’s Cameron Curtis goes up for a slam dunk in the first quarter for the Rockets, who took down Lewis County 70-67 at Chapel Hill Monday night.

The game was good from the start as both teams fought back and forth and then Curtis electrified the crowd when he stole the rock and soared in for a slam dunk with less than two minutes remaining in the first quarter.

Lewis County matched the two points, but Ford scored in the paint to tie the game at 12 as the first quarter ended.

Hinson went bonkers in the second quarter as he scored 16 out of the Panthers’ 20 points in the period, including three 3-pointers.

Forrest kept the Panthers at arm’s length and trailed by just four points at 32-28 at halftime.

Ford had a huge third quarter for the Rockets as he poured in 11 points, nailing a 3-pointer that gave Forrest a 44-41 lead and a rebound and put-back for the final bucket of the stanza.

Chapel Hill took a 48-46 lead to the final eight minutes and went up by four early on an Andrew Timmons bucket off a pretty fast break pass from Spencer McCown.

The Panthers did not give in as they came back to tie the game at 52 and once again at 54 before Curtis drained a 3-pointer to put Forrest in front with less than four minutes to go in the contest.

Ortiz came up with two free throws to cut the Forrest lead to 57-56, but Stewart scored on an over the top fast break bucket to make it a three-point game.

“It’s almost like you have to make him (Stewart) mad and eventually it starts to come out, so you have to make him mad,” Toombs said.

Moments later, Ford hit two free throws to give the Rockets their biggest lead of the game at 61-57 before the Panthers fought back again as they went on an 8-3 run to take a 65-64 lead with one minute to go in the game.

It was all Crowell’s doing with a pair of 3-pointers and a field goal.

Ford drained two free throws to seesaw the lead back to Forrest at 66-65 and then the biggest play of the game took place when Lewis County was called for an offensive foul after a timeout.

Martin Stewart came up huge for the Rockets on Monday with 12 points in the paint and two crucial free throws with 11.2 seconds left in the contest.

Toombs called a timeout of his own after the Lewis County turnover before Stewart stepped to the free throw line and calmly drained both fouls shots to put the Rockets up 68-65 with 11.5 seconds remaining in the game.

The Rockets gave up a bad foul with 7.7 left and Ortiz hit both free throws to extend the game, but Curtis sealed the deal when he sank two free throws with 6.3 seconds left.

A Lewis County buzzer beater fell off the mark and the Rockets escaped with their second big win in a row.

Ty Hengesbach had an outstanding defensive game and scored nine points, while McCown finished with six, Mitchell Everett turned in another gritty effort and scored a deuce, along with the freshman Timmons.

After a game at Cascade on Tuesday, the Rockets play in the Aflac Christmas Tournament at Watertown versus DeKalb County, starting on December 20 at 8:30 p.m.

“This will be a nice test for us because we have to go to Cascade tomorrow and then we have that three-game spread, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and then we come back after Christmas for another three days, so I’m excited,” Toombs said.

Lewis County 12 20 14 21-67

Forrest 12 16 20 22-70

Lewis County (67): Peyton Crowell 30, Bryson Hinson 22, Mike Ortiz 11, Cameron Cotham 4.

Three-point goals (13): Crowell 8, Hinson 4, Ortiz 1.

Free Throws (15-for-20): Hinson 4-for-6, Ortiz 4-for-4, Crowell 4-for-4, Cotham 3-for-6.

Forrest (70): Sam Ford 25, Cameron Curtis 14, Martin Stewart 12, Ty Hengesbach 9, Spencer McCown 6, Mitchell Everett 2, Andrew Timmons 2.

Three-point goals (6): Ford 4, Curtis 2, Hengesbach 1.

Free Throws (11-for-14): Ford 5-for-6, Stewart 4-for-4, Hengesbach 2-for-4, Curtis 2-for-2, Everett 0-for-2.

Halftime Score: Lewis County 32, Forrest 28.

Next Game: Thursday, December 20, DeKalb County Aflac Christmas Tournament at Watertown, 8:30 p.m.