By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Now this is the way to start off a season.
You build a 24-13 lead as the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Rebels behind the hot shooting of your senior standout Johnie Sanfratello.
Wait, was that the tire screeching sound effect? No, it was the Memphis Nighthawks going on a 17-4 run to close out the first half in the TRA Gymnasium.
Memphis increased its 30-28 halftime advantage to 45-40 midway through the third quarter Nov. 16. But TRA Head Coach David Hunt got his team to make a couple of adjustments on defense in time to pull out a 64-59 win over the Nighthawks.
“We were not doing our assignments,” Hunt noted. “We were letting the high post catch it every time. In our one-two-two and our two-three, we were not guarding the middle. I think we corrected that a little bit toward the end.
“And our hands were up and more active,” he added. “When we got a tip on the ball, things seemed to go our way. We got a couple of big and-ones. Then I think we rebounded. We rebounded terribly in the first three quarters. I think we did a better job in the fourth quarter.”
Early in the game Sanfratello hit a pair of three-pointers late in the first quarter giving TRA a 12-11 lead heading into the second quarter.
Preston Trainor sparked TRA’s 12-2 run to start the second quarter with a three-point play. When Sanfratello hit teammate AJ Hightower with a no-look pass for a layup the Rebels were ahead 24-13.
The Nighthawks closed out the first half with a run of their own. Memphis outscored TRA 17-4 to lead 30-28 at the break.
TRA tied the game at 30-30 when Darian Weakley scored. The contest remained close with Sanfratello trading shots with Nighthawk Tayson Parker. After Sanfratello hit a jumper to make the score 40-40, Memphis concluded the quarter with the final five points.
Entering the fourth quarter, it was Hightower’s turn to spark his team. After a layup from the senior forward, Hightower displayed his outside shooting touch hitting a three-pointer to make the score 47-45.
Weakley gave TRA the lead when he hit a triple. Memphis captured the advantage one more time at 53-52.
TRA would have the last run of the game starting with a Hightower to Duffy connection for a layup. The Rebels outscored the Nighthawks 12-6 down the stretch.
The highlight of that stretch was when Duffy took an inbound pass to the rim for a layup and drawing a foul. That three-point play made the score 61-55.
“I don’t even want to know how many turnovers we had,” Hunt said. “I don’t think I’m going to even look. I thought for this group, Johnie Sanfratello is really the only guy who played lots of minutes last year.
“We have some other guys who played in situations last year,” he continued. “So many guys stepped up like Ryan Duffy making a huge and-one on that inbound play. AJ Hightower played a hack of a game.”
Hunt was proud of how his team played with most of the players just coming off the gridiron.
“I didn’t know how they would finish,” he concluded. “I’m very proud of them. Half of the guys out there were football. We’ve only had five days to practice. So for AJ, Darren, Tino, Preston and Tucker Pittman, we made some free throws down the stretch and some plays to get us over the hump.”