There is a Memphis thing going on in Murfreesboro, where the TSSAA championship games are being played and Memphis teams have stamped their presence and positioned themselves to net titles. Count the Douglass Red Devils and the Hamilton Wild Cats in that mix, with both having played their way into finals showdowns.
Douglass routed the North Green Huskies 73-47, carving a path to the Class A championship game against Lorette at 3:30 this afternoon (March 17). Hamilton smashed the Livingston Academy Wildcats 81-36, advancing to the Class AA championship game at 6 p.m. Both games will be televised on the CW30.
The Red Devils of Douglass flew under the radar for most of the season, having to go 17-1 before they were ranked in the Associated Press Tennessee High schools polls. They finished the season as the second ranked team in Class A.
Head coach Gregory Williams was glad his team was out of the spotlight earlier.
“Everyone may not have been able to handle the pressure that comes with having a lot of attention,” he said.
Douglass got off to a slow start and trailed going into the second quarter 16-15. The Red Devils turned to one of its strengths – pressure defense – and forced the Huskies into turnovers. They took a 35-27 lead into the locker room.
The Huskies just could not stand up to the heat of the Douglass defense. They got outscored 25-7 in the final quarter. The Red Devils defense produced 17 steals and forced 31 turnovers.
The Red Devils (32-1) were led by Jordan Smith (15 points) and Michael James (19).
“I am just glad we got the win,” Smith said. “We came into the game thinking we are the best team in the state and we know we are. We came out there and proved it. Every single day we have been working hard.”
Williams praised the opposing team’s effort. “They did their homework on us. Anytime this year we knew we could get a 10 to 20-point run. It has been happening all year. It was just a matter of time.”
As for being the third Memphis team to advance to a title game, Williams said, “We did not want to be the team to go back to Memphis without a gold ball. …I told my team that North Green was in the way of our goal. Our guys have been level headed and framed for what we have to do.”
Hamilton’s knockout performance
Hamilton did not waste any time in putting its mark on the the semifinal game. Stocked with seniors, the Wildcats used pressure defense to force 21 turnovers, sending a no-way-we-gonna lose message Livingston Academy. Hamilton had 16 steals and out-rebounded Livingston Academy 56-36. Hamilton went into the half with a 42-15 lead.
The Wildcats (35-2) were led by Jordon Johnson (18 points, 3 steals) and Martrell Brooks (16 points, 12 rebounds). Livingston Academy (26-10) was led by Mathew Seils with 11 points. He was the only player to score in double digits for Livingston.
Hamilton (35-2) head coach William Smith said the game plan included not allowing Livingston to shoot threes.
“They can shoot the basketball. I knew our pressure, which we work on all the time (and) is our best thing, would be difficult for them. We made sure we got in their face. We made sure that we did not allow them to bring the ball down and set up their offense.”
Reflecting on the run of Memphis teams thus far, Smith said, “Memphis, Tennessee is a place where basketball is rich. We want to continue to show people that. We want recruiters to continue to come to Memphis and allow our student athletes to go to school for free. That is our job, to get them to go to school for free. Hopefully some of them will be able to provide a better life for them by playing basketball.”
As for playing for the gold ball, Smith said, “This has been our goal all year, to bring home that gold ball; not just for us, but for all of the south Memphis community. We all we bleed blue all-day everyday.”