Rockets knock off Hornets in season opener

Thursday, November 19, 2020
Hunter Bennett, who led the Rockets in scoring with 21 points, follows through on one of his two 3-pointers in the season opening win over Huntland Tuesday night in Chapel Hill.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

The Forrest Rockets, who have not had a winning season since 2012, kicked off the 2020 campaign in style Tuesday night at Chapel Hill with a convincing 74-63 win over the Huntland Hornets in a Hall of Champions contest.

“We wanted to start out with a win to ensure that what we are practicing everyday can be utilized in the games,” Forrest coach Corey Bishop said. “I was really proud of our attention to detail throughout our off-season and our two weeks of practice.”

The victory was only the second time since 2011 that Rockets posted a season opening win with the other triumph coming in 2018 when they beat Hickman County.

The Rockets came up with a balanced scoring attack with junior Hunter Bennett leading the way with a game-high 21 points with two 3-pointers and a 3-for-4 effort from the free throw line.

Freshman lefty Brennan Mealer was spectacular in his varsity debut, scoring 18 points, including four 3-pointers and senior Walker Herring knocked in 14 points in the low post.

“A balanced team is the most difficult thing to scout against,” Bishop said. “If you have so many guys contributing the question becomes who do you game plan to stop? I was very proud of our entire team for their unselfishness on the offensive end.”

Junior Andrew Timmons and senior CJ Sanchez contributed eight points apiece while sophomore Josh Rumley had one 3-pointer and senior Cole Perryman scored a deuce.

“We are a deeper team than what we were last year,” Bishop said. “The vision we've had with building this program is having several guys who can do multiple things on the court.”

The Rockets were a little rusty at the outset, trailing 10-7 after the first quarter, but came up with a huge 25-point second quarter as Herring scored five points in the low post and a red-hot Bennett pouring in 11 points in the period, including a pair of 3-pointers as the Rockets took a 32-24 halftime lead.

“We just had to get in flow of the game and get into a rhythm,” Bishop said. “Once we started moving at a faster pace and pushing the ball we manufactured our own points which is tough to stop.”

“We want to gas pedal down and play a fast pace game of basketball.”

Freshman Brennan Mealer runs out before turning in a stellar varsity debut with 18 points and a game-high four 3-pointers.

The third period was the Brennan Mealer show as the freshman went off with 11 points in the stanza, including back-to-back-to-back three bombs.

Sanchez and Herring also nailed one trey apiece in the third quarter as the Rockets pushed their lead to 16 points at 59-43 entering the final period.

The Hornets managed to cut the lead to 13 points midway through the fourth quarter before the Rockets kicked in the afterburners with a 13-2 run to end the game.

Forrest’s CJ Sanchez (34) bangs home a 3-pointer over Huntland defender Jordan Lewis.

The Rockets will be back in action on Friday night when they host the Columbia Lions in their final Hall of Champion contest.

The Lions lost 84-77 in their season opening Hall of Champions game at Smyrna.

Bishop, who also took over the girls program at Forrest this season and now coaches both teams said about that challenge, “It's not a huge difference. We try to preach to both teams that being tired or worn out is not an excuse. I just try to gather myself for a couple of minutes and get in the right mindset for us to be as successful as we can.”

Huntland 10 14 19 20-63

Forrest 7 25 27 15-74

Huntland (63): Noah Thompson 15, Bryson Johnson 14, Micah Millraney 13, Braylen Phillips 9, Will Joley 8, James Miller 2, JT Jackson 2.

Three-Point Goals (4): Jolley 2, Phillips, Thompson.

Free Throws (14-for-33): Johnson 4-for-7, Thompson 4-for-9, Jackson 2-for-3, Phillips 2-for-3, Jolley 2-for-4, Millraney 0-for-7.

Forrest (74): Hunter Bennett 21, Brennan Mealer 18, Walker Herring 14, Andrew Timmons 8, CJ Sanchez 8, Josh Rumley 3, Cole Perryman 2.

Three-Point Goals (10): Mealer 4, Bennett 2, Sanchez 2, Rumley, Herring.

Free Throws (6-for-8): Bennett 3-for-4, Timmons 2-for-2, Herring 1-for-1, Mealer 0-for-1.

Halftime Score: Forrest 32, Huntland 24.