UNIONVILLE — The Forrest Lady Rockets have battled adversity through injury and overcoming a short roster all season.Even losing key personnel for large parts of the season, if not the entire …
UNIONVILLE — The Forrest Lady Rockets have battled adversity through injury and overcoming a short roster all season.
Even losing key personnel for large parts of the season, if not the entire season in some cases, the Lady Rockets (12-16) persevered within coach Hal Murrell’s vision for the program and battled to the second-place in the District 7-AA tournament.
They followed with a dominant win over Stratford in the Region 4-AA quarterfinals, but eventually saw their season come to a close after a hard-fought battle with top-ranked East Nashville (23-7) in the region semifinals on Monday night.
Following a close first half, East used a third-quarter run to pull away for the 60-45 win over the Lady Rockets and end Forrest’s season.
“I thought we responded. I thought the game plan was good. I thought we handled their pressure and physicality. Even until halftime, it was an eight-point game. They went on that run at the beginning of the third quarter and kind of stretched it out and we ran out of gas. I couldn’t be more proud of the season and the effort just to get here. We’re one game away from reaching sub-state,” Murrell said.
It looked like East might run away with the game in the early goings of the first quarter after building a 9-2 lead over the Lady Rockets following a basket by Jaslynn Walter with 3:37 left in the opening frame.
But Forrest answered with a trey by Megan Mealer and by the end of the quarter, Forrest closed the gap to a 13-11 Lady Eagle lead.
Forrest relied on timely three-pointers by Kinslee Inlow and a stellar rebounding effort against a bigger East Nashville lineup to keep within one possession through the rest of the opening quarter.
Forrest continued to hold its own into the second quarter and after a three-pointer by Carli Warner from the top of the key with 6:43, Forrest held a one-point, 16-15 lead.
The two teams swapped control of the lead three more times in the following minute until East closed the half on a 12-2 run.
Even with the run to close the second quarter, East Nashville’s lead was just eight points.
But eventually East’s size and depth began to take its toll on a depleted Lady Rocket roster with a huge third-quarter run that broke the game open.
East exploded on a 14-5 run that allowed the Lady Eagles to execute their game plan and control the boards.
“A lot of times when I’m getting players (on the bench), I’m getting eighth and ninth graders or girls that don’t have a lot of experience. I thought Carli (Warner) and Megan Mealer did a really good job. I thought (Kaylin) Pope did a really good job inside to start the game. But they’re big and they’re physical and they have some next-level players that we held in check early on,” Murrell said.
Forrest senior Macyn Kirby wasn’t about to go down without a fight as she scored all nine of the Lady Rockets’ points in the third.
She added nine more in the fourth quarter.
Kirby led all scorers with 21 points in her final game with the Lady Rockets, while Inlow added 10, including three treys.
Monday night marked the final game for Kirby, Mealer, Warner and Samantha Hopkins.
“You’ve got two girls who have signed college softball scholarships and Megan Mealer is the hardest working kid and Sam (Hopkins) does everything we ask her to do, whether it’s a guard position or a post position. She is the first one leading the cheers on the sideline for us. It’s a team effort. I told them in the locker room I was proud of them. I told them I loved them like they were my own daughters. They have done everything I have asked out of a senior group. I think they have started to turn the culture back to where Lady Rockets basketball ought to be,” Murrell said.
East was led by Walter, who scored 17 points, while Jayla Horton and Kenya Fairs each scored 14.
Even though the game went down as a loss, Forrest showed massive steps forward as a program when compared to last season’s region semifinal lost to East Nashville in which the Lady Rockets fell 62-28.
“I couldn’t be more proud of how they came out and represented themselves and our program and how much we’ve improved—not only just this season, but last season when I first got here. We got to this very game last year and we got run out of the gym,” Murrell said.
The injury bug struck Forrest early and hard this season as the Lady Rockets had to play the majority of the season without key players, or with players who battled nagging injuries throughout the year.
For now, the focus is getting the young Lady Rockets healthy, in the gym and in the weight room with the hopes of taking the next step in qualifying for a state sectional game, if not beyond.
“There’s going to be some big shoes to fill. I thought we had overcome a lot this year. Cadence Chapman, our starting post player has been out all year; Camreigh Warner has been hurt and she has been 90% of the year; Josie Brown, a good three-point shooter, injured her ankle again in practice; (Kaylin) Pope has been hurt most of the year. I know it hasn’t showed, but she’s been going to therapy for a shoulder injury,” Murrell said.
“We’re going to be young next year, but I think the sky is possibly the limit. I’ve got a really good group of young girls we’ve pulled up. Hopefully we can get in the gym and get them stronger in the weight room and try to get past this game,” Murrell said.
Forrest closes the season with a 12-16 overall record.
Forrest 11 10 9 15 — 45
E. Nashville 13 16 22 9 — 60
Forrest: Macyn Kirby 21, Kinslee Inlow 10, Megan Mealer 7, Carli Warner 3, Camreigh Warner 2, Sadie Smith 2.
E. Nashville: Jaslynn Walter 17, Jayla Horton 14, Kenya Fairs 14, Cleo Johnson 7, Trinity McGee 7, Da’Nya McMillican.
3-Point goals: Forrest (8): Kirby 3, Inlow 3, Mealer, C. Warner; E. Nashville (3): Horton 2, Walter.
Halftime score: E. Nashville 29, Forrest 21.