By CHRIS SIERS
BELL BUCKLE — In a game dominated by several runs by both Cascade and Forrest, neither team was able to effectively able to establish an extended rhythm in scoring throughout the regular season finale.
In the end, the Champs were able to overcome a stellar night shooting by Ben Villazon and close the regular season on a high note, beating the Rockets 52-41.
“I felt like we looked a little bit fatigued at times. We weren’t completely a step slow, I just felt like we were behind a little bit. You have to give credit Forrest, they hit some shots, especially early on in the game, to give themselves a chance,” Champion coach Chris Lawson said.
It was a hot start for Forrest in the first, jumping out to a 13-7 lead by midway through the first.
While Cascade was able to close the gap to 13-12 following two made free throws by Tucker McGee, Tristan Goad hit a 3-pointer for the Rockets with just over a minute left in the quarter to take a 16-12 lead into he second.
In that first frame, Ben Villazon was able to shake loose and knocked down six points for the early Forrest spark.
While the Rockets were hot in the first frame, Forrest managed just one basket with 4:07 to go in the half.
Cascade, on the other hand, charged ahead on a 14-2 run to lead 26-18 at the half.
While shots struggled to fall for Forrest, Cascade limited second-chance looks by dominating the glass in the period.
With a 26-18 lead and the momentum well in hand, Forrest simply wouldn’t go away and closed within a single possession with 5:03 left in the third.
A 3-pointer by Isaac McElroy put the Champs up 31-25 and Cascade stretched the lead back to 10 points by the end of the third.
Forrest again proved tenacious and opened the fourth on a 5-0 run until McElroy answered with back-to-back baskets to once again push the lead out to 11 points.
As time continued to dwindle, Forrest needed to foul to stop the clock, but with the new rules in place, the Rockets had four fouls to give before Cascade stepped foot to the free throw line.
With Villazon connecting on two free throws with 53 seconds left to once again cut the Cascade lead to six points, a Forrest was assessed a foul and an additional technical foul was issued to the Rocket bench.
McElroy connected on all four free throws and on the following possession, Logan Pulley drew a foul and stepped to the line, making 1-of-2 tries to complete the five-point swing for Cascade, essentially icing the game.
McElroy was the only Champion to reach double figures, but he led all scorers with 24 points.
Due to tiebreakers within the district standings, Cascade and Forrest will meet again at 6 p.m. on Monday night in the district play-in game.
“Everybody is 0-0. We have played even with everyone in the district. Cannon beat us both times, but the second time over there, I thought we played well. I think it can be a pretty even and balanced tournament,” Lawson said.
Forrest 16 2 9 14 — 41
Cascade 12 14 13 13 — 52
Forrest: Ben Villazon 17, Tristan Goad 13, Bray McCown 5, Houston Matlock 2, Jimmy Bond 2, Kelley Toombs 2.
Cascade: Isaac McElroy 24, Saebyn Burris 9, Zach Crosslin 6, Tucker McGee 4, Tyler Rodgers 2, Logan Pulley.
3-Point goals: Forrest (4): Goad 2, Villazon, McCown; Cascade (2): McElroy 2.
Halftime score: Cascade 26, Forrest 18.