By Thomas Sellers Jr.
“Johnny Football” and “Johnie Basketball” have a lot in common.
They are both dynamic talents with a flair in the field of play and swagger while in uniform. Both the NFL’s Johnny Manziel and Tipton-Rosemark Academy Rebel Johnie Sanfratello play key roles on their teams.
When Manziel is on top of his game using running and passes outside of the pocket, he’s a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback for Texas A&M leading to a first round selection by the Cleveland Browns in 2014. Closer to home, Sanfratello is the junior point guard for David Hunt’s Rebels known for his attacking the rim and stylish passing.
While Johnny Football is trying to earn the starting spot in Cleveland down the stretch, Johnie Basketball is finding his grove for TRA being a spark plug in the last two games. Sanfratello scored more than 20 points in a win over Power Center November 25. Then after a week off, the Rebels returned to the court and Sanfratello once again gave his team the boost needed for a 52-28 victory over Macon Road at home.
“He’s a good player,” Hunt said of Sanfratello. “He tends to get out of control every now and then. But that’s the way he plays. But as long as he consistently makes some good plays, I’ll let him do his thing.
“I probably let him do too much at times,” he continued. “But he’s a good player. If we’re going to win a lot of ball games, he’s got to make big plays and step up for us.”
The stepping up started early Dec. 2 for Sanfratello with a layup to make the score 2-0. The junior point guard added another score in TRA’s 12-2 lead early in the first quarter.
Sanfratello’s teammates Gil Erwin, Logan Stewart and Nathan Whitley also scored during that stretch. Whitley’s steal leading to a layup gave the Rebels the 10-point advantage.
“We haven’t played in a week, so I challenged them to come out and play hard,” Hunt said. “And they did. I think we were up 12-2. Then I think we relaxed a little bit and I think we were in a one-point game.”
Macon Road responded with a 9-0 run to make the 12-11 late in the first quarter. But Rebel Shelden Spence cut off the Kingsmen momentum with a three-pointer at the buzzer to make the score 15-11.
The Rebels outscored Macon Road 14-4 in the second quarter starting with a Conner Sanders layup. Then Darien Weakley made the score 19-13 with a put-back bucket. After a Stewart basket, Sanders made a steal leading to a layup and a foul. His three-point play made the score 24-13.
With the Rebels ahead 25-15, Sanfratello closed out the first half action adding to the TRA advantage. First he made a steal leading to a lay in. To conclude the second quarter, Sanfratello drained a couple of foul shots to put TRA ahead 29-15.
TRA put the game away in the third quarter with a pair of three-pointers to make the score 35-19. Sanfratello then used his passing skills to locate Stewart for a jumper. The Rebels’ lead grew to 39-19 at the end of the third quarter when Tino Garibay made a put-back basket.
In the beginning of the fourth quarter, Sanfratello nailed another three-pointer to make the score 42-19. To close out Macon Road, Sanfratello hit another layup after making a steal. Other Rebels to score in the final period were Erwin, Preston Trainor and Ryan Duffy.
“The second quarter I said, ‘We’ve got to go out and do a better job of executing,’” Hunt said. “We missed a lot of layups. We can’t get scared to get our shots blocked. It’s going to happen. So we’ve just have to go up strong. We played hard.
“Having not played in a week,” he concluded, “we were a little rusty. But we played hard and found a way to pull away to get a ‘W’.”