FORT MYERS, Fla. — Memphis East wasn’t supposed to make the finals of the City of Palms Classic, but the Mustangs kept coming, knocking off the three P’s: Pace Academy (Atlanta), Pebblebrook (Mableton, Ga.) and Patrick School (Hillside, N.J.) to reach Wednesday’s championship matchup with No. 4 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.).
In Tuesday’s 74-61 semifinal defeat of No. 10 The Patrick School, the Mustangs were led by T.J. Moss with 17 points and Chandler Lawson with 12. Memphis East (9-1) took control with a second-quarter surge and never trailed after that against the Celtics (2-1).
Though the Mustangs were ranked to start the season, they fell out of the Super 25 after an early loss to Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (Chattanooga) and apparently off the radar of their opponents.
“I was disappointed,” The Patrick School coach Chris Chavannes said. “I thought we as a program didn’t give them the respect that they were due. It started last night, running around and not going to bed on time. We were immature and disrespectful of their program. Our kids looked past this team and that’s not who we are.”
Memphis East coach Penny Hardaway said the early loss to Hamilton Heights Christian woke his players up, but others were sleeping on them.
“They didn’t think we were for real coming in,” Hardaway said. “You can look at our team and it’s like, ‘Who are they?’ so we had to come in and make the noise for ourselves.”
Lawson, the younger brother of two Memphis University players, did a good job of defending Celtics post and Kentucky signee Nick Richards, who had 15 points.
“I tried to use technique to keep the ball on his hands and keep them on the floor,” Lawson said. “We kept our heads up and stayed focused as a team.”
Prior to the season, Lawson, a sophomore, pondered whether he should transfer to a prep school for more seasoning but said he is glad he stayed now.
“Yes, it’s worked out,” Lawson said.