By Drew Goodman / Scrimmageplaycva.com contributor
After watching a seesaw battle flip to a three-possession deficit in a matter of minutes, it would have been easy for the Tandem boys’ basketball team to hang its head late in Thursday night’s tilt at Covenant.
Tandem refused to go away quietly though and rallied for a 70-62 road win over the Eagles.
The Badgers, who had mostly kept the Covenant offense in check for the first 20 minutes of play, watched as Jonas and Nic Sanker helped the Eagles engineer a 13-4 run from between the late third and early fourth quarter.
Down nine points and with all of the momentum on the opposing bench, Tandem head coach Robert Jordan turned to senior Jalen Anderson to reignite the spark that the Badgers had in the first half.
Anderson put the Badgers on his back and scored seven consecutive points in less than 90 seconds.
The 7-0 mini-surge kick started a 16-2 run that allowed Tandem to leave the Covenant School with a hard fought win.
Anderson scored 12 of his team-high 21 points in the fourth quarter when his team desperately needed something to go its way.
After being kept out of the paint for most of the game, Anderson was able to get to the lane down the stretch and tallied several big buckets. Following a pair of free throws by junior Dean Lockley, Anderson came up with a steal and drove into the heart of the Covenant defense to put his team ahead by 3.
The basket seemed to get much wider for Anderson and company in the closing minutes, as Tandem outscored the Eagles 25-5 in the game’s stretch run.
“Defense and rebounding won us this game, and everyone getting the ball,” Anderson said. “It was moving at our pace… I mean, yeah, it got out of hand a little bit in the fourth quarter, but we just came to play.”
Anderson was certainly the catalyst when the Badgers were trailing, but the senior had plenty of help during the big fourth quarter run.
Lockley’s two fourth-quarter free throws gave Tandem the lead for good. The junior poured in 19 points, including a huge third-chance opportunity to put his team ahead by five. Kobi Copeland turned in 12 big points, while Nelson took over in the final minutes to finish with 10 points on the night.
Having just eight players on the roster, having four different Badgers in double figures is nothing new, but Jordan was proud of the way that his team spread the ball around in Thursday’s win.
“We got a group of guys that have a lot of talent. They all have a lot of skills, but our main focus is sharing the ball,” Jordan said. “’Unselfish play’ is what we want to call it, and we know it’s a process. It’s a new team, a new division, and we’re going to keep plugging away.”
Jordan told his team that Thursday’s contest would be a game of runs, and the veteran head coach was correct.
After Tandem built a 21-9 lead in the second quarter, before the Eagles responded with a methodical 20-7 run of their own.
A deep three by Jonas Sanker trimmed the Tandem advantage to just one point late in the first half. Then freshman wing Prince Andrew muscled his way for a tough layup to give the Eagles their first lead of the night.
Covenant appeared to be heading into the locker room with a 29-28 lead, before Lockley registered a huge three-point-play in the final six seconds.
The Sankers later put together that 13-4 run to turn the game in their favor late in the third frame. Nic Sanker beat the third quarter buzzer on a turnaround, one-handed jumper, and the Eagles quickly built a nine-point lead early in the fourth.
As the game winded down however, the Tandem defense clamped down and prevented the Sankers from getting the ball down low. Neither Sanker connected from the field in the fourth quarter, as both brothers combined for just one made foul shot each in the final eight minutes.
“We knew that [Jonas Sanker] was tough and that he was their go-to-guy,” Jordan noted. “They were doing a little pick-and-roll on us and got some easy baskets on us, so we had to make an adjustment on him and make sure that we keep him out of the paint. He’s a very strong player, but I think once we buckled down on that, we made it tough for him to score and that was the determining factor down the stretch.”
Jonas Sanker led the Eagles with 19 points, while his brother, Nic added 15.
With the win, the Badgers are now 3-0 against Central Virginia foes. Tandem opened the season with a rare victory over St. Anne’s Belfield, before topping both Regents and Covenant in the weeks that followed. Tandem will look for the season sweep of Regents on Saturday, while the Eagles are at St. Anne’s Belfield on Friday.