By Thomas Sellers Jr.
It was time for lockdown. Trailing 42-37 entering the fourth quarter of Division II-A Sectional game to the Knoxville Webb Spartans, Tipton-Rosemark Academy Head Coach Cedric Anderson gave his Rebels the cue that has taken them to wins over the ECS Eagles and FACS Crusaders leading to the West Regional championship. Saturday inside the TRA Gymnasium, the fourth-quarter defensive effort was needed to earn a spot in next week's Division II-A Boys State Basketball Tournament in Cookeville. The Rebels held the Spartans to 6 points in the final 8 minutes to prevail 50-48. The Rebels are returning to State for the first time since 2019. “I'm going back to what our monicker was three weeks ago, this team has to have more discipline,” Coach Anderson said. “And we started showing that more in the past two weeks. That's one took resiliency because we stayed the course the entire time. They made us play their pace. We tried to speed them up but just couldn't. We just stayed down and stuck to our guns. I really appreciate those guys.” Webb came ready to play taking a 17-15 first quarter lead with four three-pointers in the quarter. Spartan guard Lukas Walls hit three of those long range shots. He added a three-point play in the opening quarter for 12 points. TRA outscored Webb 14-11 to take the lead at halftime. The Rebel duo of Alex Anderson and Tyler Byrd shined in the second quarter combining for all those points. Byrd drilled a three-pointer and made layups in the paint for 10 points in the period. In the third quarter the Spartans tied the game at 34-34 with a David Sanger triple. Webb outscored TRA 8-3 to close out the quarter with Jaylon Green and Walls making treys. Only 8 minutes away from a trip to State, Webb was slammed by the waves of defensive pressure by Rebels like Thano Sinis, Sam Cannon, Ethan Stewart, Jalen Hurt, Will Hughes, RJ Seals, Myles McClinton and Reggie Lewis. “That group of guys really trust each other,” Coach Anderson said. “The FACS game Cam Donegan was doing the scoring. Everybody played defense, anybody who steps on that court for me has to play defense.” The Rebels' unity was on display when sophomore Eli Ramsey was located for a three-pointer. He nailed the long range shot with 5:01 on the clock to make the score 42-40 in favor of Webb. “You look at tonight's game, big shot by Eli Ramsey,” Anderson noted. “Everybody out there trusts him. Big shot by Cam Donegan from the top. Because we all trust him.” Donegan's late three-pointer cut the Webb 48-44 advantage to a single point with a minute and 9 seconds remaining. “We put Sam Cannon in the game but he didn't get the shot,” Anderson said. “But he got a big rebound for us.” That rebound set up TRA's go-ahead basket by Byrd. Ahead 49-48, the Rebels' defense came up with crucial stops and senior captain Alex Anderson put the finishing touches on the Sectional victory with a foul shot. Back two years ago Alex was a sophomore scoring leader that learned under the guidance of cousin Tysen Banks and brother Andrew. That Rebel team was defeated by Webb in the State finals. Last season, Alex was a junior nominated for Mr. Basketball in his classification, averaging 20 points a game. But the Rebels only reached Sectionals. Now a senior, Alex is once again a Mr. Basketball finalist, heading back to State and has learned the lessons to be an all-around leader. “He had to learn how to do because he always had his big brother to take over, to take care of of the little things,” Coach Anderson recalled. “Andrew did all the little things for him. He had to learn how to become a leader. Not just a leader but a serving leader at times. “You don't always have to take all the shots,” he concluded. “You've got to make plays for your teammates and play defense. He has grown up right in front of me and I am so proud of him. I know it's been tough on him because he hears dad when I am coach. I love him to death, I love my son a lot.”