By Thomas Sellers Jr.
With his team 5-6 coming into last Thursday night’s game, Tipton-Rosemark Academy Head Coach Jason Morgan was on a mission.
The history teacher gave himself an assignment on the legacy of Rebel Basketball prior to Christmas Day. What Morgan uncovered was motivation for his team coming into the Macon Road Kingmen contest.
“There was a really good team here back in 2008,” he noted. “They got two transfers at Christmas after alread having one pretty good ball player. And they won a lot of games in the second of the year. With that team included, nobody around here has been able to tell me all week the last time Rosemark was .500 or better at Christmas time.”
On the wall of the TRA Gymnasium hangs a picture of that 2008 team that was State runner up. And by the end of the night, a few feet to the right the scoreboard read 60-42 in favor of TRA. And the Rebels improved to 6-6 before Dec. 25.
“Last week was bleek,” Morgan acknowledged. “We just kept losing close ones. I’m really proud of these guys because two out of the first four ball games, we just go shelled by several points. Guys heads were down, we were 1-3. I told the guys, ‘Let’s just keep doing what we’re doing in practice, stay with it.’
“After everything that has happened and the guys we graduated last year, with that all said and done, we’re 6-6 going into Christmas,” he added.
The night started slow for the Rebels as they nursed a 13-10 lead heading into the second quarter. The go-to guy for TRA in the first quarter was Matt “Moose” Moody.
Macon Road jumped out to a 6-1 lead and Moody started his team on the comeback trail. After a pair of free throws, Moody scored on a layup.
Moody made another foul shot before scoring on a put-back bucket making the score 7-6 in favor of TRA.
The Rebels maintained the advantage in the opening quarter with Nick Biggs scoring and finding teammate Austin Chambers for a layup. When Conner Alexander hit a layup the score was 13-10.
The Kingmen stay close to TRA thoughout the second quarter even making the score 16-14 early in the period. But with 6 minutes and 16 seconds remaining in the first half Moody scored on a put back drawing a foul. The foul shot made the score 19-14.
The Rebels managed to stay ahead from the charity stripe with players like Alexander, Biggs and Ryan McCrory contributing with free throws. Blaine Curtis hit a scope layup between two defenders to help TRA go into the locker room ahead 31-24.
In the third quarter the Rebels outscored Macon Road 15-7 to take a 15-point lead. The highlight of the quarter was a Alexander steal and pass to Moody. The junior power forward exploded to the rim for a two-hand jam.
Another play that made the crowd buzz came courtesy of freshman point guard Johnie Sanfratello. Racing down the court, Sanfratello flipped a no-look pass to a cutting Chambers for a layup that made the score 46-28.
With his team ahead 46-31 heading into the fourth quarter, Morgan was hoping his team didn’t repeat recent history.
“Three of the ball games we lost, we really felt should have been wins,” he said. “It was fourth-quarter energy and fourth-quarter defense. I would put us up there with anyone as for being in shape. Sometimes mentally we just get down on ourselves.”
The Rebels didn’t hang their heads in the fourth quarter against Macon Road. Moody scored the first four points of the period to keep his team ahead in double digits.
Down the stretch TRA made stops and foul shots to win the game in what Morgan calls “Crunch Time.”
“Get the big stop and rebound on defense and passing the OK shot to get the great shot on offense,” he noted. “When you’re foul, making them pay at the foul line. Which we did a pretty decent job of today. They had us on the rope pretty much most of the first half and some of the third quarter. But in the fourth quarter, I saw us pull away a little.
“It was the pressure defense we backed out of and played some smart defense getting some key rebounds,” Morgan concluded. “It was doing what we wanted to do, instead of doing what we settle for. I thought that was positive and hopefully we can take that and move forward.”