East Hamilton will play Memphis East in the 2017 boys’ state basketball tournament March 15-18 at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.
Brainerd (28-5) drew Haywood (26-7) in the Class 2A portion of the tournament on March 15 at 1:15 p.m. Central time. The Panthers will play at 10 a.m. on March 16 at 10 a.m.
About an hour after the boys’ tournament draw, the TSSAA announced the winners for Mr. Basketball and Miss Basketball awards.
McCallie’s JR Clay was a finalist for the Division II-2A award, but the honor went to Brentwood Academy junior sensation Darius Garland for the second straight year.
Junior point guard Rhyne Howard of Bradley Central was among the three finalists for the Division I Class 3A Miss Basketball award. Howard led the Bearettes to 32 straight wins before losing to Stewarts Creek in the sectionals.
Howard averaged 19 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 4.8 steals for the Bearettes, but Anastasia Hayes of Riverdale claimed the honor.
East Hamilton coach Rodney English picked his lucky number 4 for the drawing and drew the defending state champions.
“I knew we had to be opposite of Oakland and when they went to the top bracket, that meant we were in the bottom bracket and Memphis East just happened to be there too,” he said. “They’re really good and I think we’re really good. I’m going to get some videos and the coaches will try to find something that can help our kids be successful.”
The Hurricanes (25-10), who knocked off Blackman 72-68 in the Class 3A sectionals on Monday, are appearing in their first state tourney in the program’s eight-year history.
English’s squad won the school’s first Region 3-3A championship by beating District 5-3A rival Walker Valley. The Hurricanes finished runner-up to Cleveland in the district tournament.
Memphis East is 30-3, riding a 15-game winning streak and is the defending state champion. The Mustangs have won 21 of their last 22 games. They last lost to Sierra Canyon (Calif.) on Jan 14 in a tournament in Springfield, Missouri.
East, led by 2017 Mr. Basketball standout Alex Lomax, has not lost to a Tennessee public school team this season. Their other two setbacks were against national power Montverde Academy out of Florida on Dec. 21, 2016, and to Chattanooga’s Hamilton Heights earlier that same month in the ESPN Showcase at Southwind High School in Memphis, Tennessee.
This isn’t English’s first state rodeo.
“I’ve done it before in other states,” he said, “but it is my first time in Tennessee. There are no favorable draws at this stage; everyone is dangerous. We’ll give it our best shot and my kids are pumped because I can tell by the text messages they’re sending me. I’m just so proud of my kids to be in this situation.”
East went 32-2 while winning the 2015 title by knocking off Cordova 64-60. The Mustangs won their final nine games a year ago and captured District 16-3A, Region 3-A tournament titles and ousted Bolton in the sectional.
The Mustangs eliminated Hillsboro in the state quarterfinals and Blackman in the semifinals before winning the “gold ball” in the title showdown.
Southwind (31-1) is also in the Class 3A tournament and will play Oakland (24-7) on Wednesday. Oakland eliminated East Hamilton’s District 5-3A rival Walker Valley in Monday’s sectional game.
Panthers coach Levar Brown turned to his memory back to recall a few scouting details about Haywood’s Tomcats shortly after Tuesday’s draw meeting to set up the early-round matchups.
“We opened the season at the MLK tournament (at Hamilton High in Memphis) and Haywood was there as well,” he said. “We didn’t play them, but we saw them play and I think they saw us play too. They’re a very physical team with some really good post players.
“We’re in for a tough game, but that’s the way it should be because it’s the state tournament. We have to take care of Brainerd and make sure we’re ready to play the way were capable of playing.”
The Tomcats, who beat Jackson South Side 62-58 in the sectionals, go into the state tourney with a nine-game winning streak. They won the District 15-2A and Region 8-2A titles.
The Panthers are hoping to make another deep run like they did last season. Brainerd defeated CAK and Whites Creek, running its winning streak to 15 games and setting up a championship game against Fulton, which the Falcons won 59-50.
“I’m really pleased with how we’re playing defense right now,” Brown said. “We still need to put it together offensively to make the type run we want to make next week. The old saying is defense wins championships and I believe we can rely on that.
“I’m not frustrated with our offense because we can score from our defense, but I like what we’re capable of doing on the offensive end of the court.”
Bearettes coach Jason Reuter, like a lot of other people that follows girls’ basketball closely, knew his star point guard faced an uphill battle to beat out Riverdale’s Hayes for the prestigious Miss Basketball award.
“Riverdale is undefeated, ranked No. 1 in the country and Anastasia is a terrific player,” Reuter said. “We knew she was the favorite, but I believe Rhyne could be the favorite to win it next year and certainly that argument could be made. To be among the three finalists this year is a great honor and I’m proud of her and she deserved this.
“Nothing has ever been given to her, but God blessed her with a lot of talent. I’m proud to say that I’ll have her for one more year. We lost some great seniors, but Rhyne is a great player coming back, a player that most schools in the country would like to have as a college freshman after next season.”
Boys State Tournament Schedule
At Middle Tennessee State
All Times Central
Wednesday, March 15
Bearden (22-9) vs. Independence, 10 a.m.
Southwind vs. Oakland, 11:30 a.m.
East Hamilton (25-10) vs. Memphis East, 1:15 p.m.
Oak Ridge (30-2) vs. Brentwood (26-8)
Wednesday, March 15
Knoxville Catholic (29-1) vs. Macon County (29-4), 4:30 p.m.
Whites Creek (28-5) vs. Sheffield (21-7), 6 p.m.
Thursday, March 16
Brainerd (28-5) vs. Haywood (26-7), 10 a.m.
Maplewood (26-7) vs. Sullivan East (31-7), 11:30 a.m.
(Contact Larry Fleming at email@example.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)