BOONVILLE - With the regular season winding down, Starmount picked up a crucial 2A victory Tuesday night in thrilling fashion.
The Rams held off a furious Forbush comeback to escape with the heart-stopping 54-52 win over their Yadkin County rivals to add an all-important 2A victory to their resume.
“We did what we had to do tonight,” head coach Rocky Horton said. “It’s a win; I wouldn’t expect anything less than that. It was time to buckle down and we did a really good job early, especially coming out of halftime. I thought our guys, even with all the emotions and everything, kept it together.
“They just played hard and were unselfish with the ball, looking for each other. They were penetrating and kicking it out,” he continued. “Towards the end of the game, I was telling them to run the clock, but we’re just not used to that. We love to run but our guys did a job of handling it.”
After a back-and-forth first quarter (Forbush led 15-10), Starmount jump-started a dominating run that stretched the second and third quarters to pull ahead.
The Rams tied the game at 20-20 on a Kyler Gregory layup midway through the second. Starmount closed the half scoring nine of the final 13 points to take a 29-24 lead into the locker room.
Forbush came out strong in the third quarter, scoring six quick points on three-point plays by Bryson Lee and Bennett Winslow to cut the lead to 31-30. But Starmount responded in a big way.
The Rams reeled off 14-straight points, while forcing four Falcon turnovers in five possessions, to grab a 45-30 edge late in the third.
“We didn’t do anything different in the run than what we were doing the whole game, something just clicked and we were finding people,” Horton said.
Starmount took a 47-34 lead to the fourth looking to close out the game. But Forbush had other ideas, scoring the first five points of the final period to trim the deficit to 47-39.
“I told them that it’s not over,” Horton said. “They’re going to try to make a run at us and we have to be ready for it.”
After a Luke Shore runner to stop the drought, the Falcons continued their spurt, reeling off eight straight to cut the lead down to two at 49-47 with 3:30 left.
Nathan Williams followed with three free throws to give the Rams a 52-49 lead with 1:25 left.
But the Falcons fought back once again as Mason Doub sank a deep trey from the top of the key to finally bring Forbush even at 52-52, capping a 18-5 charge.
With a chance for the game-winner, Starmount ran down the clock to 16.8 seconds before Horton called a timeout to run a final play.
“We wanted to spread it out and give the ball to our playmakers and let them go to work. That’s what we were doing when we made that run,” Horton said.
Gunner Cass took the inbounds and ran off more clock until he was hacked driving to the basket. Cass calmly sank both free throws to give the Rams a 54-52 advantage with just 2.7 ticks left.
On the ensuing inbounds, Hunter Gooden found Barrett Hennings upcourt. Hennings threw up a half-court heave that hit glass, giving Starmount the thrilling victory in basketball’s Unifi Bowl, as the student section rushed the court to celebrate.
“A lot guys came off the bench and did things throughout the game that were big for us, but those two free throws by Gunner were huge,” Horton explained. “I’m proud of them. That was a hard-fought win a rivalry game. We’ll take it.”
All 10 players who saw playing time scored on the night for the Rams, led by Cass’ 12 points, including the game-winning free throws. Shore added eight points, while James Ashley finished with seven. Nathan Williams recorded six points with Zach Worley and Ben Combs tacking on five points apiece.
The Rams, who improved to 4-9 in Mountain Valley Conference play with the win, now only trail second-place Ashe County (5-9) by a half-game in the conference standings. The Huskies lost to Elkin and Alleghany in back-to-back nights this week.
Starmount will look to keep pace tonight when the Trojans come to Boonville.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.