By Thomas Sellers Jr.
MEMPHIS — The Tipton-Rosemark Academy Basketball programs spent part of the holiday season in Florida.
Although the getaway wasn’t ideal for a tropical vacation, TRA Rebels Head Coach David Hunt said the stay in Florida was productive for his team and a bonding experience. The Rebels’ bond grew tighter when the players arrived back home to find out their classmate Lauren Moody had passed away after her battle with cancer.
“It’s been a very tough situation, of course for the Moodys and the kids at Tipton-Rosemark Academy,” Hunt said. “It’s hard to understand how to react to something like that. What do you say? These guys they’ve come together. We’ve prayed together and talked about it. These guys, we’re trying to fight through it. We’re playing the rest of the season for the Moodys.”
The rest of the season started Jan. 5 against the Westminster Defenders in Memphis. In total dominance and displaying class at the end, the Rebels won the game for Lauren 63-19.
It was a team effort that allowed the Rebels to jump out 25-8 after one quarter. Withe senior guard Johnie Sanfratello running the show, players like AJ Hightower, Darien Weakley, Shelden Spence and Preston Trainor all scored in the opening period.
Hightower got the scoring started with a three-pointer to make the score 3-2. That sparked a 21-4 run for TRA.
Sanfratello pulled up for a NBA-range three-pointer to make the scoreboard read 6-2. After a Weakley jam made the score 8-3, Sanfratello hit another triple.
Hightower changed up TRA’s method of attack by driving to the basket for a layup and a foul. His three-pointer play made the score 14-5.
Sanfratello took a breather and his fellow senior guard Tino Garibay came in to run the show. He located Spence with a behind-the-back pass for a layup.
Moments later Hightower drained another triple to make the score 19-5. Then another Garibay assist produced points. He found freshman Luke Smith for a bucket in the paint making the score 21-6.
Defensive pressure caused steals and led to buckets from Spence and Trainor to close out the first quarter.
Trainor opened the second quarter with a three-pointer. TRA outscored Westminster 22-5 in the second period to lead 47-13.
Sanfratello was the hot hand in the second quarter hitting two deep three-pointers. He added a pair of layups in the period.
In the third quarter, the Rebels used a variety of players trying to gain experience for the future and the upcoming league schedule. Hunt said the trip to Florida also served those purposes.
“We had a really good time besides the weather with it raining the whole time,” he recalled. “At least it was warm. I think the players had a good time. It was something different we never done before. We stayed in a nice hotel with 15 boys’ teams and 7 girls’ team. It was good for them to see other players and hang out with other high school kids.”
With a team-bonding trip and extra motivation playing for Lauren, Hunt said his Rebels are ready to start league play.
“We’ve got USJ coming to our place Friday,” he concluded. “Them and St. George’s are neck-and-neck. I don’t know who is better. They play, I don’t know what will happen. But we’ll have to bring our A-game to have a chance. We can as long as we play well. If we play bad, we can’t because they’re a good team.”