By Thomas Sellers Jr.
If you take away the lack of experience in the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Lady Rebels backcourt and the foul trouble of Ally Naifeh, TRA might have won their season opener.
But the 2015-16 regular season got off to a negative start Nov. 16 with the Magnolia Heights Lady Chiefs outlasting the Lady Rebels 53-44 in the TRA Gymnasium.
Magnolia Heights jumped out to a 17-6 lead after the opening quarter and later achieved a 23-10 advantage in the second quarter.
During that stretch, the young TRA guards Megan Sanfratello and Brittany Hall were trying to adjust to the role vacated by Lady Rebel graduate Bethany Berger.
“We’re really young at the guard positions,” TRA Head Coach Keith Cox acknowledged. “We have two players we’re working in at the point guard spot with Brittnay Hall and Megan Sanfratello. One is a sophomore and one is an eighth grader.
“Neither one of them got experience at the position last year. Brittney played very little, just in spot if we had foul trouble last year,” he continued. “Megan is an eighth grader and as a seventh grader last year she played at the 2. She’s been a two-guard her entire life. We’re trying to move her over. So there’s a lot of inexperience there. They’ll get better. They’re both very talented and skilled in their own way.”
Cox noted Sanfratello is a shooter and once she adjusts to the varsity level and get her nerves, she’ll start making shots. Then Coach pointed out Hall’s speed on the courts.
“She’s the fastest person out there,” he said. “She can create shots nobody else can. Now she just has to start making them.”
Hall did blast down the court on three occasions for easy lay up. But each time the ball seem Naifeh.
The senior forward used her post moves and dribble to the basket to keep the Lady Rebels within shouting distance. Naifeh scored 8 of the team’s first 10 points. Her fellow senior Taylor Beasley hit a pair of foul shots.
In the second quarter Beasley drained a triple to make the score 23-13 in favor of the Lady Chiefs. Lady Rebel Abby West was the first underclassman to contribute to the output when she hit a runner and drew a foul. West’s three-point play made the tally 25-16.
Moments later Neely Turner hit a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 25-19. TRA continued its outburst behind the play of Naifeh.
First she went into the post and used a move for a layup to make the score 26-21. Next up Naifeh drove to the basket and made a layup to make the scoreboard read 28-23.
With the Magnolia Heights defense focusing on Naifeh, she drove to the rim and located open teammate Kallie Alexander for a layup. That made the halftime score 29-25 in favor of the Lady Chiefs.
Early in the third quarter, baskets by Naifeh and her fellow senior Brooke Bridges made the score 31-29 in favor of Magnolia Heights. But at the midway point of the period, Naifeh drew her fourth foul.
The Lady Chiefs were able to maintain the advantage at 39-32 heading into the fourth quarter.
TRA tried to overcome the deficit but could only manage to make the score 41-37. The Lady Chiefs outscored the Lady Rebels 12-7 the last 4 minutes and 36 seconds of the game to win.
“You spot a team 15 points early, you excert so much energy to try to get back into the game,” Cox said. “When we do and cut it, we were never able to get over that hump. We never got back to a tie ball game to start over fresh.
“Ally’s fourth foul just about killed us,” he concluded. “She does so much for us. She’s very important I think she had 19 four us tonight. Her and Taylor have to be out there. They’re so important to us. They’re the only two we’ve got with experience from last year. We have so many babies out there, we have to have them out there to lead them.”