By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The Rebels finished 8-6 in the West Region District I behind FACS, ECS, USJ and Sacred Heart. So entering the 2018 Division II-A West Region Tournament this week, TRA had to start on the road if they were going to reach the tournament site at ECS.
The Rebels pulled off a pair of away victories beating the St. George’s Gryphons and FACS Crusaders. TRA’s reward was a Friday night Semifinal showdown against the USJ Bruins in the ECS Gymnasium.
TRA entered the contest with the simple game plan that helped them reach this point — intense defense. The formula of pressuring the ball with guards Tysen Banks, Andrew Anderson, Carter Weakley, Howard Grey and Patrick Green worked outlasting the Bruins 41-30.
The Rebels advanced to the championship game and have earned a Sub-State game to finally return home.
“First of all, we had to change the culture at Tipton-Rosemark and have these guys buy in,” TRA Head Coach Cedric Anderson said. “Not only buy in but understand every individual’s role is. They’ve got to the point where they accept their role. And then we got the environment changed to where it’s defense first opposed to offense. I told them it’s playoff time and it’s time to do it.”
Making defense the priority allowed TRA to hold USJ to 2 points in the first quarter. Meanwhile the Rebels got a triple from Green and a three-point play from Carter Weakley to go ahead 6-2.
The Bruins tried to rally with a three-pointer from Colby Hughes making the tally 6-5. That shot started a seesaw battle with USJ getting buckets from Ryan Miller, Harrison Homberg and another Hughes triple.
TRA countered with baskets from Gray, Andrew Anderson and his little brother Alex. When Stanton McFarland scored on a layup made the tally 14-13 in favor of USJ.
Andrew regained the lead for TRA with a jumper. Then he followed moments later with a hop-step move for a jump shot to make the tally 17-14.
Coach Anderson said those back-to-back plays by his son Andrew were huge in keeping momentum for the Rebels. He also noted Andrew’s role is to manage the court in multiple ways like keeping his younger brother under control.
“It helps to have your big brother out there to keep you calm and who is helping you because he knows your tone,” he said. “He can speak to you in a matter that you respect. He’s had that since he was a little boy.
“And Alex is not a freshman anymore,” Coach Anderson added. “We’re in the second half of the season. It’s playoff time now. So Alex is ready to play and we’re not putting too much on him. We’re allowing him to do what he’s able to do. Plus he has three ball-handlers out there.”
Alex helped TRA increase its 18-15 halftime lead into a 26-18 advantage heading into the fourth quarter. Alex scored on a layup during the third quarter.
The only USJ basket in that period came courtesy of a McFarland three-pointer. The third quarter closed with Andrew making a layup and Weakley hitting a trey.
The Bruins cut the deficit to 26-21 early in the fourth quarter when McFarland hit another triple. Then TRA amplified the defense leading to a 13-5 run to seize control of the game.
Rebel power forward Kameron Collier benefited from the intense pressure defense from the guards leading to fast break buckets for the junior. Collier had a three-point play and made a foul shot giving TRA a 35-24 advantage.
Before the final seconds ticked off the ECS scoreboard, Weakley stepped to the line to ice the game. He made the two foul shots giving him 15 points. But more importantly, Weakley will get another chance to play in front of his home court.
“Carter, with him being a senior, you thinking that you’re going into your senior year a year away,” Anderson said. “You’re thinking, ‘Next year this is going to be my team.’ Then you have these new guys coming in. You’re thinking, ‘Where do I fit in?’ No, it’s where do we all fit in.
“We’re all a piece to this bigger puzzle,” he concluded. “We all have to fit into our roles. They’re not here to take your spot. They’re here to make you better at what you do.”
TRA will play in the 2018 Boys West Regional Tournament championship game tomorrow night at 8 p.m. The Lady Rebels will be in action earlier in the day at ECS talking on Harding Academy at 2 p.m. in the third-place game of the 2018 Girls West Regional.