The Jan. 10 league showdown between the Tipton-Rosemark Academy girls and University School of Jackson was noteworthy for a couple of reasons.
Those who follow the teams on Twitter saw various videos circulating of USJ players appearing to push down multiple TRA players in the waning moments of the 49-44 Rosemark win.
TRA followers were outraged. USJ supporters claimed the Rosemark players were flopping to draw fouls.
“Both teams are just so competitive sometimes emotions take over,” Rosemark junior Brianna Hall said with a smile.
Senior Abby West, one of the players involved in the controversy, laughed and shrugged when the subject was broached.
“It was real exciting,” she said. “When we play them we used to freak out and turn the ball over a lot, but this time we knew we had a chance to beat them.”
Said senior Megan Sanfratello: “Every time we see them with that USJ on their chest, it’s like, ‘Hmm.’ In eighth grade we used to lose to them by 30. It was the best feeling.”
TRA head coach Cedric Anderson chalked it up to competitiveness.
“They have very competitive kids over there,” he said. “They are well-coached and do a great job. I think it’s more a rivalry for us because it’s been so one-sided. I don’t think they see us as a rival and I respect that. In the course of that game their emotions got the best of them, but they’re good kids and they have a great program.”
The second reason the win was noteworthy was that TRA had never beaten USJ and the team’s players and coach hope it’s a sign that things are changing.
“Not only is it important to the girls who are participating now, it’s important to the girls who played in the previous years and the parents who are around who went to school here and played ball here,” Anderson said about the win over USJ. “It was important to the whole community of Tipton-Rosemark.”
After routing Evangelical Christian School on Tuesday, the Lady Rebels are 14-3 (6-1 in DII-A-West) and riding an eight-game winning streak. The team’s only league loss came against Trinity Christian Academy, which the Lady Rebels will host on Friday.
This is Anderson’s first year coaching the TRA girls. He took over for Cameron Pridemore, who led the team to new heights.
There has been a transition period.
“It’s been a lot easier process than I anticipated,” said Anderson, who has installed a high-octane offense that is very different than previous seasons. “They know that I’m here to serve them as their coach and they’ve done a great job of accepting a new style of play. I think they are seeing they can flourish and their skill sets have shown they flourish in this style.
TRA tries get a shot off no longer than seven seconds into each possession.
“I think we’re more on board than we’ve ever been and our coach is, too,” Sanfratello said.
“Our coach tells us how good we are every day and that encourages us to play harder,” said Hall.
The team’s players are not afraid to state their goal of making the state tournament for the first time in program history.
“I think we really have a shot, we just have to work together,” said junior Mary Catherine Turner.
“We all have this kind of gut feeling that we’ll go, but we try not to say it out loud because things happen,” West said.
Said Hall: “I think the couple past years we were okay with not getting there because we knew we had another year to do it. Now we know this could be our last time, so we all want it. It’s the seniors’ last time.”