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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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Victories aside, East coach still pushing Mustangs

When you enter a game against what might be considered an inferior opponent, you can’t take a night off. Defending state basketball champions the East Mustangs easily defeated the White Station Spartans 72-45 on Tuesday, and were not threatened at any point during the game.

However, Mustangs head coach Penny Hardaway felt his team played sloppy all game and he’s made it clear he will not settle for that. After the rough patch the team hit a few weeks ago, Hardaway installed a zone and pressure defense to the team’s arsenal.

The Mustangs are in the early stages of perfecting the addition of the new defensive sets, but the last two teams East played are most likely wishing that East goes back to a straight man to man defense. The Mustangs defeated previous top contender the Whitehaven Tigers 79-55 last Friday.

Against White Station, the Mustangs turned on the full-court press and forced turnover after turnover for the Spartans, allowing East to take a 23-4 lead after the first period. James Wiseman, the near 7-foot junior transfer from Nashville’s Ensworth, went to work on the smaller Spartans.

Wiseman finished with 25 points and 15 rebounds and was able to easily catch inside passes and score at will. Wiseman’s defense was also a major factor against the Spartans. He had several blocked shots that made the Spartans think twice about attacking the rim.

Wichita State signee Alex Lomax dropped 15 points and controlled the tempo of the game and allowed his teammates to get involved in the action. The University of Alabama-bound Ryan Boyce matched his jersey number in points (12) and played a great defensive game.

With less than two weeks left in the regular season, the East Mustangs have their sights set on a third consecutive Tennessee state championship. The Mustangs are 12th in the nation in the latest USA Today rankings and 15th in the MaxPreps rankings.

East coach Penny Hardaway and his assistants know what they want from this year’s talented team and they are focused on getting their point across. (Photo: Terry Davis)

Hardaway postgame

“We have a mission we are trying to accomplish and a goal we are trying to achieve. Sometimes the guys look at the game like we are going to win anyway. We are looking for specific things on the court and we are not getting it every night.”

On the strong play of Wiseman, Hardaway said, “James is a special player. A lot of the guys, I commend them because they are getting him the ball. He is running the floor and he is feeling it down there and I am definitely happy about that.”

As for positives, Hardaway said, “We got the energy. That is what I am loving, but we are not just getting the rotation and things down like we should.”

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