By Thomas Sellers Jr.
When Tipton-Rosemark Academy Rebel guard Johnie “Basketball” Sanfratello banked in a last-second three-point to tie the game at 56-56, many in the TRA Gymnasium started to have high hopes that the Rebels would complete a great comeback.
Trailing by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter to the Memphis Metro Home School Mustangs, Sanfratello’s triple had to be a good oman for Head Coach David Hunt and his Rebels. But underneath the surface of the crowd going wild at the end of regulation was the fact two TRA inside players Gil Erwin and AJ Hightower fouled out.
The lack of firepower in overtime helped the Mustangs prevail 69-65.
“If there’s one thing I can say about this team this year, ‘We’re going play hard 32 minutes,’” Hunt said. “In this case 36 minutes, we’re not going to give up. We’re going to fight until end. We’re a good team and good teams never give up, good teams fight. I never give up until the final buzzer. And I know these guys have the same mentality. Sometimes you fall short, but I’m proud of their comeback.”
The reason why TRA needed a comeback last Thursday night was a 6 of 31 shooting performance in the first half. The Mustangs and their standout Nate Vaughn used an 11-0 run in the first quarter to take a 13-8 lead. MMHS was ahead 27-20 at halftime.
The Mustangs outscored TRA 14-12 in the third quarter to build a 41-32 advantage. MMHS’ lead grew to 49-34 early in the fourth quarter.
TRA’s never-say-die approach came in handy when Darien Weakley hit a baseline jumper and layup to start a 16-3 run. Sanfratello hit his first three-pointer since the opening shot of the game to make the score 49-41.
Hightower was next up driving to the rim for a layup to make the score 50-43. Moments later Sanfratello hit another three-pointer to make the tally 52-46. MMHS’ lead dropped to 4 points when Hightower hit another layup.
With 52.4 seconds left in regulation Hightower made a move in the post for another bucket to make the score 52-50.
Shortly after that basket, Hightower and his fellow forward Erwin fouled out. Erwin kept TRA within striking distance with 8 points in the third quarter.
There departure didn’t automatically doom the Rebels despite MMHS leading 55-50 late in the fourth quarter. Sanfratello drilled an NBA-range three-pointer with 6.4 seconds left.
Vaughn made the score 56-53 with a foul shot with 5.5 ticks remaining. TRA gave the ball to Sanfratello trying to stay alive. The junior point guard was able to launch an attempt behind the arch that banked off the glass into the net to tie the game at 56-56.
“Gil probably, offensively, played his best game of the year,” Hunt noted. “He’s going to hustle and he’s going to be flying all over the place. He’s probably our best rebounder especially with Logan out. He made his shots tonight. AJ hit some big shots. Not having them in overtime definitely hurt.
“Johnie stepped up and hit some big shots at the end,” he added. “That’s what Johnie likes. He likes those situations and having the ball in his hands. That’s where we need it. We need him to step up near the end and make some big shots. I’m so proud of him. One or two things here or there, it’s a different outcome.”
Sanfratello scored 7 points in the extra period, but the Mustangs were able to outscore TRA 13-9 overall to earn the victory.