By Thomas Sellers Jr.
SOUTHAVEN, Miss. – The Tipton-Rosemark Academy Rebels looked like a team trying to find an identity in the first 16 minutes against the Northpoint Christian School Trojans.
Friday night started slow for the visiting Rebels trailing by double figures at the break managing to only score 13 points. As TRA walked to its Northpoint Gymnasium locker room, Head Coach Jason Morgan was trying to figure out how to snap his team out of its funk.
That was more challenging than usual because just two days before the Northpoint contest, Morgan official got four football players that will be feature in his 10-man rotation.
“We went and played a game last night and looked great in the first half,” Morgan noted about the season-opener against Halls. “Then we came out in the second half and looked like a team that only had one day of practice. We came out here tonight and looked a little flat, a little small and even a little scared.”
Morgan’s halftime pep talk somehow got his gelling team to transform a 25-13 deficit into a 49-46 victory over the Trojans.
“We came in and I said, ‘All we have to do is rebound and run our plays,’” Morgan recalled. “They said, ‘Hey Coach we don’t know our plays yet. We only had one day of practice.’ I said, ‘Well do whatever you think you’re supposed to do. Do it to 100 percent.’”
One of those football players getting into the mix is junior Conner Sanders. He said the final piece of advice given by his Coach was applied on a certain end of the court.
“Our defensive intensity led to our offense,” he said. “We made a couple of shots. It was a real team effort on defense.”
TRA outscored Northpoint 16-7 to trim the deficit to 32-29. During that stretch Matt “Moose’ Moody got the run started with a score in the post. Then Sanders made a layup to make the score 25-17.
Later in the third quarter senior guard Connor Alexander added to his big day hitting a layup to make the tally 27-21 in favor of the Trojans. Earlier that afternoon, Alexander inked a letter of intent to play baseball for The University of Memphis. The two-sport standout made the score 32-29 nailing a triple. The third quarter ended with Northpoint nursing a 36-33 advantage. Moody bookend the period with another low post bucket.
Early in the fourth quarter TRA finally took the lead when Alexander hit a jumper to make the tally 39-38. Then the teams traded the leads until senior Moody made a pair of foul shots to make the score 43-42.
With a minute and 43 seconds remaining in the game, Moody followed his own shot to make a layup drawing a foul. His three-point play gave TRA a 46-42 lead.
The Trojans tied the game at 46-46. The Rebels came up clutch late at the charity stripe. Alexander stepped to the line and calmly hit two foul shots to regain the advantage for TRA at 48-46.
Sander gave the Rebels a little bit more breathing room with a foul shot. TRA made several stops on the defensive end down the stretch including one at the final buzzer to escape Mississippi with a victory.
Morgan compared the size, strength and style of Northpoint to a Bo Ryan Wisconsin team. Facing a bigger team, TRA manage to improve on the four keys of the game Morgan wants to see improvement, rebounding, turnover ratio, three-point percentage and foul shooting.
“Out of all those numbers, we are a little bit better,” he said. “We’re still not where we want to be. Those free throws, a year ago would be some sophomores and juniors missing free throws letting the other team back into the game.
“Tonight it was some juniors and seniors making free throws keeping that team just far enough away,” Morgan concluded.