Brentwood’s run for a Class AAA state basketball championship ended Friday afternoon in Murfreesboro as the Bruins fell to three-time defending state champion Memphis East 46-42.
Brentwood was making the school's fifth appearance in the state tournament in seven years and was trying to reach the state final for just the second time in school history.
“These are great young men,” Bruins coach Greg Shirley offered after the contest. “They gave everything they had. They did everything they could possibly do.
“A couple of things didn’t go our way and obviously this is a very talented team we were playing. But here we are in the final four and we fought for 32 minutes. I’m very proud of them.”
Brentwood used a deliberate pace and stayed the much taller Mustangs throughout the contest, never trailing by more than seven and manufacturing a 9-1 run in the middle of the second quarter that actually gave the Bruins a 21-18 lead on a Cole Massey 3-pointer before Memphis East took a 24-21 lead into the halftime locker room.
The Bruins retook the lead by two early in the third but were down five by the end of the frame to start the final eight minutes.
The 7-foot-1 James Wiseman led the Mustangs with a quiet 22 points battling against a Brentwood defense anchored by senior Ben Mills. Rated the best high school player in America by most services, the former Ensworth standout added eight blocked shots and seven rebounds to his day’s accomplishments.
“Wiseman is rated the number one player in the country for a reason," Shirley said. "He is a very skilled young man.
“Obviously you respect someone as talented as he is, and we have a ton of respect for their whole program. We expected to come over here and get a win. Give them 100 percent credit; great players and great team.”
Wiseman was the only player in double figures for Memphis East and he could have had more had it not been for the gritty, physical defense of the Bruins, especially by Mills and junior Harry Lackey, who both gave up more than six inches to the 7-plus footer.
Nowhere was that more obvious than Lackey’s final play with mere seconds on the clock. Wiseman broke free for a game-ending dunk that would have rattled the panes at the Glass House, only to be challenged and denied by Lackey, who used his last foul to stop the attempted intimidation at the rim.
Lackey led the Bruins with 13 points, like Wiseman the only member of his team to reach double figures. Preston Moore and Massey both had nine, while Mills closed with six points and six rebounds. The team struggled as a whole from the floor, shooting only 28.9 percent. The Bruins did win the turnover battled and managed a 29-28 rebounding edge, collecting 10 offensive rebounds – four from Mills.
Shirley bristled when it was suggested a four-point defeat at the hands of a three-time champ with the top player in the nation was a nice moral victory.
“We came 100 percent planning to win this basketball game," he said. "We are very disappointed in the outcome, but I will never be disappointed in how hard these young men work and compete.
“Everybody knows it was a 32-minute battle and we never backed down. We talk about not playing perfect but have perfect effort. I think we did that.”
Memphis East coach Jevonte Holmes agreed.
“Great respect for that group," he said. "That is a scary team. Two or three plays go different at the end and this is a different story.”
Shirley also called out the Brentwood fans who traveled both days to support the team. More than 1,000 students showed up Thursday night to watch the Bruins tip Oakland 50-47 in overtime. Hundreds more were in attendance Friday.
Harry Lackey, Preston Moore and John Windley carried Brentwood through a harrowing four minu…
“It was great to look up and see that whole section of blue," he said. "I mean, they are part of this family, too. Most high school players never get to play in the atmosphere that our fans bring on a nightly basis and makes Brentwood a special place.”
The Bruin fans chanted "It's great to be a Brentwood Bruin," long after the final buzzer, high-fiving the players as they exited the state stage.
The 2019 Bruins were the fourth Brentwood team to reach the state semifinals. The Bruins strung together three straight semifinal appearances, capped by a championship berth and eventual title game loss to Hamilton, 65-62, in 2015. That team tipped Memphis East 53-44 in the semifinals and was the first team from Williamson County to reach the Class AAA final since Franklin won the title in 1989.
The Mustangs advanced to Saturday's championship where they will face Knoxville's Bearden, which dispatched Franklin in the first round on Wednesday.
Memphis East boys 46, Brentwood 42, Class AAA Semifinal
MEHS – 11 13 12 10 – 46
BHS – 5 16 10 11 – 42
MEHS (46) – Antonio Thomas 0-3 6-8 6, Natica Harwell 1-2 0-0 3, Isaiah Cathey 0-2 0-0 0, Kylan Haywood 2-5 0-1 4, James Wiseman 10-14 2-4 22, D. Merriweather 2-6 0-2 5, Tadarius Jacobs 2-3 2-3 6, Terrence Jacobs 0-0 0-0 0. Totals – 17-35 10-18 46.
BHS (42) – John Windley 0-2 0-0 0, Preston Moore 3-10 3-3 9, Harry Lackey 3-13 7-8 13, Cole Massey 3-8 0-0 9, Ben Mills 2-8 2-2 6, Joey McPherson 0-1 0-0 0, Jon Franklin Burks 2-3 0-0 5. Totals – 13-45 12-13 42.
3-point goals – MEHS 2-11 (Harwell 1-2, Merriweather 1-4); BHS 4-13 (Massey 3-8). Rebounds – MEHS 28 (Wiseman 7); BHS 29 (Massey 9). Assists – MEHS 15 (Thomas 6); BHS 5 (Lackey 2). Steals – MEHS 2 (Merriweather 2); BHS 7 (Lackey 4). Blocks – MEHS 9 (Wiseman 8); BHS 1 (Mills). Turnovers – MEHS 15; BHS 10. Total Fouls – MEHS 14; BHS 19. Fouled Out – Mills, Lackey.