ROWLETT BOYS BASKETBALL MATTHEW ELLIS

Rowlett’s Matthew Ellis elevates for a shot in the lane on Tuesday against Naaman Forest. Ellis scored five points, but the Eagles saw their comeback attempt fall short in a 56-49 loss.

Rowlett spent all of Tuesday night playing from behind, mostly facing a double-digit deficit.

The Eagles refused to quit, though, and they staged a furious fourth-quarter rally to make it a one-score game with less than four minutes left to play.

But the Rangers turned up the defense at just the right time to turn back Rowlett’s comeback attempt and claim a 56-49 victory at Naaman Forest High School.

The Eagles fall to 0-2 in 9-6A, while this was the district opener for the Rangers, as they move to 1-0.

Naaman Forest led from the onset and were ahead by as many as 15. They were still comfortably in front with a 43-30 advantage early in the fourth quarter when the game took a dramatic shift.

Senior Wesley Shepherd, who had played only a handful of minutes and had not scored through three quarters, caught fire.

Shepherd knocked down a 3-pointer and then went coast-to-coast for a layup and Corey Earl followed with a bucket to close the gap to 43-37.

Justin Whitmore scored inside for Naaman Forest, but Earl came right back by knocking down a trey to make it 45-40.

The Rangers bumped the lead back to eight courtesy of a layup and a free throw by Whitmore, but Shepherd then made his presence known again, as he sank another 3-pointer and hit a runner to close to within 48-45 with 3:13 left.

The Rowlett defense then forced a turnover, giving them a chance to draw even closer or tie it up.

But the Naaman Forest defense came up big when it needed to most, forcing a turnover of its own that led to a dunk by Daylen Webb and then repeating the script to set up a flush by Whitmore to push the lead back to 52-45 with 1:55 left.

Shepherd continued to make plays on the Eagle side, but Autavius Hobbs matched it for the Rangers to allow them to pull out the win.

Shepherd scored all 14 of his points in the fourth quarter and Earl had 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Eagles.

Naaman Forest got 14 points from Coleman Craddock, all of which came in the first half, 12 from Hobbs and nine points, 13 rebounds and four blocks from Whitmore.

The frantic finish was in stark contrast to the beginning of the game, when the teams combined for just one field goal in the first three-and-a-half minutes.

Nathan Parra scored four early points for the Eagles, but Craddock had nine in the opening frame for the Rangers to stake them to a 17-7 lead at the end of the first.

Rowlett made a quick push at the start of the second, as Early knocked down a 3-pointer and Matthew Ellis hit a layup to cut it to 19-12, but Craddock maintained his hot hand, hitting a trey and a jumper and Webb made two free throws to give Naaman Forest a 28-15 halftime lead.

The Eagles went to the outside coming out of the locker room, as Earl hit a pair of 3-pointers and Ellis, Landen Johnson and Kyle Giffith added treys, but Hobbs had seven points in the quarter to help the Rangers maintain a 41-30 lead.

Rowlett would make it interesting down the stretch, but Naaman Forest fended off the run, leaving the Eagles still in search of their first district win.

For continued coverage on the local sports scene, follow Devin Hasson on Twitter: @DevinHasson

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