By Thomas Sellers Jr.
With a nearly perfect record entering Tuesday night’s showdown in the TRA Gymnasium, the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Lady Rebels were primed to avenge their only defeat of the 2020-21 season.
This time the University School of Jackson Lady Bruins were on the turf of the Lady Rebels. USJ was able to pull out an overtime win over TRA earlier in the season.
The Lady Rebels came into the rematch with the objective of beating the Lady Bruins and prevent a developing trend. Last season TRA was dominate against all teams but the eventual State champion Trinity.
USJ’s game plan controlled the first half of action leading to a 25-10 halftime advantage. TRA made adjustments to send the game to overtime tied 41-41. The Lady Bruins had enough in the end to prevail 46-43.
“We were a little jittery with the ball, a little anxiety,” TRA Head Coach Cedric Anderson said. “We gave away I think in the first quarter four consecutive balls that they didn’t steal. We just threw it right to them.
“They were able to get momentum and we were playing catch up the rest of the game,” he added. “We had to be conservative with our defensive approach in the first half. I’m watching the score hoping to apply the pressure in the second half.”
With Lady Rebels focusing on half-court defense in the first 16 minutes, USJ was able to get the ball into the post to players like Julie Wagner. The Lady Bruin center made a couple of baskets in the paint but was able to find shooters like Stella Spencer, Olivia Jones and Sara Beth Brauss for jumpers to develop the 15-point lead at the break.
The Lady Rebels were able to cut 5 points off the deficit in the third quarter with senior Brianna Hall picking up the offensive production. Her teammate Raven Sims drained a three-pointer at the buzzer to make the tally 32-22 in favor of USJ.
TRA outscored USJ by 10 points in the final quarter of regulation starting with an Eyse Warren bucket. Moments later Sims located Hall for an aerobatic layup in the lane to make the score 34-29. Other Lady Rebels to contribute to the run were Jordan “JoJo” Allen and Mary Catherine Turner.
TRA freshman Savannah Scruggs stepped up in the clutch with three free throws after being fouled on a triple attempt. Her foul shots made the score 39-34.
Turner’s conventional three-pointer gave the Lady Rebels hope at 41-37. Then Hall stepped up to deadlock the game at 41-41 with two free throws and a layup in traffic.
Hall scored her sixth point in a row in overtime with a layup in the lane. USJ took the lead for good with a three-pointer. Then Wagner iced the game with a put-back bucket in the final moments of the game.
The Lady Rebels dropped to 16-2 for the season with only one team handing them those two defeats.
“We’ve got to cross that hump,” Anderson concluded. “The effort we had in the fourth quarter and the first part of overtime will give us the energy to go over the hump to beat these girls. They’re confident (USJ) like Trinity was last year. But we’re confident as well and we’ve got enough seniors and they have to step up.”