For the fourth straight decade, Fred Horton is taking a Memphis high school boys’ basketball team to the state tournament. This time it’s Whitehaven High School.
The Tigers advanced to the Class AAA state tournament after a 72-53 win over Bartlett High School on Monday. It’s back-to-back state tournament appearances for the Tigers. Last year, Whitehaven advanced to the semifinals and lost to Knoxville Bearden 76-60.
After having guided multiple teams to the state basketball tournament, Horton, the long-term boys’ basketball coach at Booker T. Washington High School, was on the sidelines after retiring last season. Then an opening occurred at Whitehaven High School last spring after former head coach Faragi Phillips took an assistant coaching job at Vanderbilt University.
Horton took the helm of a Whitehaven team that lost its best player (Matthew Murrell) to a prep school. And there is no dominating big man in the middle to protect the rim on this small-guard oriented squad.
The Tigers, however, have proven that they can slowly grind down opponents. That is the formula they used to defeat Bartlett on Monday in the state sectional game. They took a 27-20 lead into halftime and the largest point differential was in the third period when the Tigers outscored the Panthers by seven points (23-16).
The Tigers had six players in double-digit scoring: Kavion McClain, 15 points; Alvin Miles, 14; Jesse Payne, 13 points; and Antwarn Smith, Kristian Spencer and Ragi Phillips each with 10 points.
Bartlett was led by Rodney Mason with 13 points and Jaylin Lucas with 11 points.
The Tiger’s will travel to Murfreesboro next week and their opponent and times will be determined after a lottery conducted later this week.