By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Two of the favorites out of the West Region of Division II-A coming into the 2020-21 basketball season were the First Assembly Christian School Crusaders and the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Rebels.
FACS validated that claim earlier in the season beating TRA 67-52 on its home court. Friday night presented the Rebels a chance for some revenge and to put the rest of the state on notice.
Ahead 45-34 entering the fourth quarter, the Rebels were 8 minutes away from achieving both goals. But the experience and poise of the Crusaders was enough to edge TRA 51-50.
“Like I try to tell my boys, ‘Fundamentals and execution at the end of games,’” TRA Head Coach Cedric Anderson said. “You do that above your athleticism. You bring your athleticism last. We just made some miscues.
“And they showed what a veteran, seasoned team that’s been there does at the end of games,” he continued. “They just bumped it up and made plays. They mostly made defensive plays. Although they made the shots, it was defense that led up to it. And normally that’s what we do.”
FACS Head Coach relied on the guard play of Joshua Ward, TJ Thomas and Corey Savage to apply pressure on the Rebel trio of Alex Anderson, Tyler Byrd and Cameron Donegan.
Throughout the first three quarters TRA maintain the advantage behind the shooting of Eli Ramsey. The sophomore shooting guard hit three triples in the third period to help the Rebels build that double digit advantage. In the first quarter the three-point shooting of Thano Sinis paced the TRA offense.
Head Coach Dee Wilkes’ Crusaders stayed within striking distance behind timely shooting from players like Thomas and inside force Daniel Ggbuniwe.
In the final 8 minutes FACS’ comeback was sparked by Ggbuniwe stepping out and drilling a three-pointer cut into the TRA advantage.
The Crusaders proceeded with an 8-3 run to finally deadlock the game. Down the stretch the Rebels made turnovers and couldn’t get the offense into a rhythm because of the Crusaders defense.
Trailing 50-49 with less than a minute remaining, Donegan drew a foul with a chance at victory. Donegan made 1 of 2 attempts to tie the contest at 50-50.
The Crusaders rush down the court and the final shot attempts ends up in the hands of Ward. He was able to draw a foul on Anderson. After missing his first free throw, Wart was able to hit the second attempt with less than 3 seconds on the clock.
TRA’s half-court heave missed of the glass and the win belonged to the Crusaders. Coach Anderson said his team will bounce back from the defeat and he challenged his senior leader Alex Anderson to grow from the loss.
“He has to make better decisions and understand what they’re trying to do you,” he said. “You can’t take on the entire team. Sometimes you’ve got to make the play for your teammate.
“To take that next step that’s what you’ve go to do,” Coach Anderson concluded. “I’m not saying you don’t just pass it. You’ve got to know what they’re doing (on defense) and make the pay for them. Attack the guy and get us an open shot by a guy who can make that play in that position.”