Memphis East wins district championship

Recap: The Memphis East Mustangs jumped the Cordova Wolves early and coasted to a 75-52 victory to secure the Class AAA County Championship.

            T.J. Moss, who won tournament MVP, led the way for East with 20 points, and three other Mustangs had a double-digit scoring night. Chandler Lawson had 17, Jayden Hardaway had 11 and Malcolm Dandridge had 10.

            Cordova had a tough time guarding the different offensive weapons for East. The Mustangs had a different leading scorer in each quarter.

            “We try to build out program around being multifaceted,” head coach Robert Jackson said. “We have a collection of guys that can step in when other guys are off. We are not a one or two man team.”

            East started the game outscoring Cordova 23-6 in the first quarter. The Mustangs forced the tempo and got to the foul line where they went 8-8. Moss dominated the first quarter with 11 points.

            Dandridge was the catalyst for the Mustangs in the second quarter, scoring 10 of the Mustangs’ 20 points, including three dunks. He was also the defensive leader for East in the first half. He blocked shots, stole passes and used his size to disrupt the flow of the Wolves’ offense.

            “When he (Dandridge) is playing like that, it’s a wrap on the defensive end,” Jackson said. “That’s what he does, that’s his specialty.”

            The second half did not go the way coach Jackson expected. East was outscored in the second half 36-32 as Cordova was able to get into transition and score easy buckets.

            Cordova guard Rodgerick Brown scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half, and Kobe Powell, who finished with 13 total points, scored nine.

            “We just got content with being up so much, and we allowed them to, so to speak, creep back,” Jackson said. “We set goals before the game, and we didn’t accomplish those goals in the third quarter.”

            Hardaway and Lawson were the top scorers in the second half for the Mustangs. Hardaway had seven points in the third quarter, Lawson scored six in the fourth.

            The Class AAA District 16 tournament will begin next week, and the state tournament starts shortly after. Last season, East defeated Memphis Central in the championship game, and they beat Cordova in the state championship.

            “I know we are going to win it, it’s going to be easy,” Dandridge said. “We are the only team in Memphis that is in the national schedule, and we’ve beaten prep schools. So ain’t no regular high school going to beat us in state.”

My take-a-ways for East:

1.    They have size.

Lawson and Dandridge, both 6-8, look huge on the court. Dandridge is mostly a defender and pick and roll guy, but his energy can change games. Lawson can stay with guards on the outside of use his size in the paint on both sides of the floor. And they also have good sized guards who can use their length to get disrupt the offense.

2.    They have multiple guys who can take over offensively.

Lawson is obviously good, but they have two other scorers who can fill it up with ease. Jayden Hardaway and T.J. Moss are capable of carrying a team offensively for stretches.

3.    They play at an extremely high pace.

They start four guys who can dribble up the court with their head up to find the open man. They grab rebounds and immediately look for the outlet or push the ball up the floor. There is no sitting and waiting on the point guard to get the ball from the rebounder. They will try to get easy transition buckets all game long. 

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