Though Sanderson’s Taj Thompson had a fine game from start to finish, he undoubtedly saved his best for last Wednesday night against Rolesville.
The Spartans’ senior point guard scored 10 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter and came up with several big plays in the closing minutes to lead host Sanderson to a 51-47 victory in a nonconference boys’ basketball game.
In a back-and-forth contest that featured numerous lead changes, Rolesville (3-6) led 44-43 following a 3-pointer by Israel Lockamy with 2 minutes, 52 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Thompson answered with a 16-footer from the left wing to put Sanderson (4-2) ahead 45-44 with 2:37 left. Following a Rolesville turnover, the 5-foot-9 guard somehow weaved his way through traffic and banked in a shot in the lane while getting fouled. He made the free throw to complete the three-point play, putting Sanderson ahead, 48-44, with 1:46 to go.
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Thompson would then deliver defensively. After Rolesville drew within 49-47 and had the ball with less than 30 seconds with a chance to tie or take the lead, Thompson stole the ball from Jamaal Farrar near the Sanderson basket. Teammate Noriel Bell was fouled with 11.6 seconds left and he made two free throws to seal the victory.
“He’s been starting since he’s been a sophomore and it shows,” Sanderson coach Mike Shaw said of Thompson. “Just senior leadership we got from him (Wednesday), he’s a quiet leader but he leads by example. He definitely did all the little things to help us win.”
After Rolesville erased an eight-point deficit by outscoring Sanderson 18-5 over the final six minutes of the third quarter to take a 37-34 lead, Thompson knocked down a 3-pointer to open the fourth and ignite a stretch in which he scored 10 of Sanderson’s first 14 points in the final frame to put the Spartans ahead for good.
They said it
“As a senior I felt like my team needed me, and I just wasn’t going to let us lose,” Thompson said. “I knew this was a game we needed.”
Three who mattered
Taj Thompson, Sanderson: He was steady all night, whether scoring or setting up his teammates. He scored 12 points in each half.
Noriel Bell, Sanderson: The senior guard scored seven points, the most important his two free throws late to secured the victory.
Ricky Clemons, Rolesville: The sophomore guard led the Rams with 12 points, eight of those coming in a stretch of 4 and a half minutes late in the third quarter to give his team the lead entering the final period.
By the numbers
0: Number of games played by Sanderson this season decided by more than six points.
8: Free throws missed by Rolesville out of 15 attempts. Rolesville was 2-for-9 from the line in the first half.
10: Lead changes during Wednesday’s game.
Both teams will play conference games on Friday night. Sanderson will play its Cap-8 opener when it hosts Wakefield, while Rolesville will host Knightdale in a Greater Neuse River 4A game.