No. 3 Memphis East basketball finishes with back-to-back state titles

No. 3 Memphis East basketball finishes with back-to-back state titles

Super 25

No. 3 Memphis East basketball finishes with back-to-back state titles

MURFREESBORO, Tenn.  — Chandler Lawson scored 18 points and grabbed 15 rebounds as Memphis East won the Tennessee AAA state title for the second consecutive year Saturday, defeating Southwind (Memphis) 65-45 at the Murphy Center.

Lawson was named the MVP after going 5-for-10 from the field and 7-for-9 from the free throw line. He led four players in double figures. Alex Lomax had 14 and Malcolm Dandridge and Terrance Moss each had 11.

The Mustangs (35-3) are the first team since White Station in 2003-2004 to win consecutive titles in the state’s largest classification.

Memphis East is ranked No. 3 in this week’s Super 25.

Lawson basically had double-doubles in each game of the tournament — he had nine rebounds in Friday’s semifinal victory over Oak Ridge — and celebrated East’s victory with a cartwheel, pulling it off about as effortlessly as a 6-9 human being can.

“Just letting the emotion out,” he said.

It was a celebration worthy of East’s accomplishments. The Mustangs now have eight basketball championships, two more than any other school in Tennessee. The title also matches the one the football team won in December.

“It’s a hard-working school,” said East coach Robert Jackson. “That’s the mindset because nobody over there in that community is ever given anything. It’s a dog mentality and that’s what the school produces, basketball, football, doesn’t matter.

“And we do it for Dez. Always. Dez is our community.”

Jackson of course was referring to former East coach Desmond Merriweather, who died in February of 2015 at the age of 41 after a long battle with colon cancer. Fueled by emotion, that year’s team made an underdog run to the state tournament before losing to Brentwood in the semifinals.

Memphis East players celebrate winning the TSSAA state title (Photo: Mark Zaleski, Associated Press)

The Mustangs took it a step further in 2016, beating Cordova in the title game and were the heavy favorites to repeat.

“We’ve been through a lot together,” said junior guard Alex Lomax. “A lot of ups and downs … we were still hated by most of the city. We didn’t get respect; we had to come to demand respect.

“It’s just a long process we had. We talked about all we’ve been through … it’s just great. We’re still together and we’re going to stay together.”

Which spells bad news for the rest of the state. East’s four all-tournament team selections — Lawson, Lomax, T.J. Moss and Malcolm Dandridge — are all underclassmen.

Lawson was the best of the bunch on Saturday, controlling the glass on both ends against the smaller Jaguars (33-7). He averaged 18 points and 12 boards in three games this week.

“I just play my role,” he said. “I try to get every 50-50 ball.”

Memphis East, coached by former NBA star Penny Hardaway, had hoped to finish at the DICK’S Sporting Goods Nationals in New York at the end of March, but the state athletic association rejected their request for a waiver to play beyond the state championships.

Contributing: USA TODAY High School Sports

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