By Thomas Sellers Jr.
David Hunt’s Tipton-Rosemark Academy Rebels had something to prove entering the William Osteen Gymnasium.
The other high school in Millington finally made it’s presence felt Dec. 14 on the campus of Millington Central High School. TRA players were competitive and entertaining with two powerful dunks from Darien Weakley.
And Rebel senior guard Johnie Sanfratello even brought the Millington Trojans’ Student Section to its feet pulling up to the volleyball line for a deep three-pointer in the second half.
Despite all those TRA highlights, it was the Millington Trojans winning the Flag City Showdown 74-52.
“I’m sure for some of the kids, they’re friends with those guys over there,” Millington Head Coach Rob Sabau said. “They grew up with them and they know them. So that’s important. But overall I just think they were hungry to win. And they played like that at times.”
The Trojans jumped out to a 13-6 lead after Johnny Mattox hit a three-pointer. The Rebels stayed close in the first quarter behind a Weakley bucket and Sanfratello NBA-range three-pointer.
With the score 13-11, the Trojans closed out the first period with a 10-3 run. Prensten Macon was the offensive force with 7 points to close out the opening quarter.
The senior defensive specialist used steals to hit a jumper, layup and three-pointer to give Millington a 23-14 lead.
“They were trying to push the ball,” Macon recalled. “So we had to pressure them. I noticed at times they couldn’t handle the pressure. Offensive game, we just hustle. The defense creates the offense.”
The pressure from the Trojans created a 29-16 advantage in the second quarter after a Bryce Mattox score.
Sanfratello made a pair of free throws and the Trojans proceeded with a 11-2 run featuring a Kip Fleming layup and Kelvin Jones three-pointer. Millington was ahead 42-23 at the break.
The Rebels fought back in the third quarter outscoring Millington 14-9 in the opening minutes. During that stretch Weakley broke free from the Trojans defense for a two-hand slam.
Moments later, Hunt set up an inbound-play that allowed Weakley a clear path to the rim again for a power dunk.
When Sanfratello hit his second deep triple of the night, the score was 51-37. Then it was time for Trojans guard Cameron Crawford to become the shooting specialist.
The senior guard sparked Millington to a 7-3 run to end the third quarter. Crawford ended the third period with a three-pointer and added two more long-range bombs in the fourth quarter.
“My adrenaline was running and we wanted to come out with the win,” Crawford said. “We just went on and did it.”
Millington outscored TRA 16-12 in the final period to win the game.
“I think this team is starting to figure out what they need to do to win,” Sabau said. “I told them the other night, ‘I don’t think we’ve been beaten. We’ve loss game.’ When you get beat, the other team does things that take you out of your game. I don’t think that happen. I think we made plays in the negative that cause us to lose. We were there in every ballgame and just couldn’t close out. Or we just didn’t make plays. That’s part of the process of them learning how to win.”
With the TRA game behind them, the Trojans turned their focus to District 15-2A play preparing for the Covington Chargers and the powerful Haywood County Tomcats.
“We start district tomorrow at the defending State champs,” Sabau said. “We have a tall order ahead of us. It was good to see Cameron Crawford make shots. He starting to shoot the ball better the past couple of game.
“Bryce Mattox is important to our offensive game,” he concluded. “He’s been able to get to the basket and he’s now starting to finish. If he can continue to do that, we’re going to be a pretty tough team. To be No. 1 seed, you have to win at home and split on the road in league. We definitely need to win Friday. And if we can steal one tomorrow, we’ll be in great shape.”