By Thomas Sellers Jr.
With time running out in the fourth quarter, the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Rebels were trailing the University of School Jackson Bruins 44-35.
TRA Head Coach Cedric Anderson had less than 3 minutes to turn things around and try to pull out a victory in the TRA Gymnasium. After a timeout, whatever Anderson drew up in the huddle defensively sparked a last rally in his Rebels.
TRA proceeded with a 10-0 run highlighted by three steals to regain the lead at 45-44. But the Bruins had enough from the free throw line to edge the Rebels 48-45.
“You can’t take any situation for granted,” Anderson said. “Every play matters, not just every game. Every single play matters. There were so many situations early in the game that little things caused us to be in that situation.”
The Bruins who entered the Feb. 5 matchup with a league record of 4-8 came prime for an upset jumping out to a 15-9 lead after on quarter.
The Rebels outscored USJ 14-11 in the second quarter but still trailed 26-23 at the break. USJ tried to create some separation in the third quarter building a 35-29 advantage. TRA stayed close in the period behind buckets from Alex Anderson and Tysen Banks.
The fourth quarter began with USJ outscoring TRA 9-5 to jump ahead 9 points with most of the final period ticked off the clock.
The Rebels’ comeback began with a pair of Andrew Anderson foul shots. Then TRA used a full-court press to create USJ turnovers. The miscues led to Rebel fast breaks featuring a Banks drive to the rim for a layup.
Then the Anderson brothers came up clutch with back-to-back three-point plays. First was senior Andrew with a layup and drawing a foul. He hit the free throw to make the score 44-42 in favor of USJ.
Moments later it was the sophomore’s turn. Alex drove to the basket and made a tough bucket with contact.
When the ball dropped through the net, the TRA Student Section dressed in all black erupted. Still rocking and shaking the gym, Alex stepped to the free throw line and gave his classmates a gesture to calm down a little. With a smile, Alex hit the free throw to give TRA a 45-44 lead.
But the Bruins would be the last ones to make foul shots. USJ players went 4 of 4 from the line in the final seconds to prevail with the 48-45 victory.
TRA dropped to 7-5 in league play and the Rebels were still in position to earn a first round home game in the playoffs. All season teams have given TRA their best shot. With the postseason here, Anderson said his players have to realize the target on their backs.
“That’s what has been happening all year,” he said. “Those guys have learn to except that it is a big deal to beat Rosemark. Teams are coming in here with the mindset, ‘We’ve got to get this win. We’re prepared to get this win.’ Coaches are getting their kids focused.
“To where in the past this was an easy win, they got to have there focus,” Anderson concluded. “We as coaches haven’t gotten our guys ready to be the frontrunners. We were in first place and now we’ve dropped back to third or fourth.”