by Shambreon Richardson
Special to The New Tri-State Defender

On Jan. 25, The Wooddale High Cardinals were involved in a late-game brawl that prompted Shelby County Schools to disqualify the team from postseason play. However, upon appeal, Wooddale’s postseason eligibility was reinstated to play in the TSSAA Class AA Tournament.

So when the final seconds ticked off of Wooddale’s 59-46 win over Knoxville Fulton in the championship game, Cardinals star Chandler Lawson could only call it one thing.

“It’s a blessing,” Chandler Lawson said after the game. “Because I get to do something my brothers haven’t done and it’s a lot of great players in Memphis just like me. It’s a blessing to be in this category.”

The championship is a family affair. Wooddale’s head coach is basketball patriarch Keelon Lawson, and sons Chandler and Johnathan Lawson both scored 16 points in the win. Given how close Wooddale came to disqualification, the win is even sweeter, Keelon Lawson said.

“Some things I learned in life (are) just control what you can control,” Coach Lawson said of the suspension. “When the incident happened, I knew I had control (of my team). Everything ended up turning out in our favor.”

The Cardinals became the first team ever to win a championship trophy for Wooddale High. To show appreciation, students, faculty, and staff greeted them when they returned home.

“The community embraced us well. To go out and bring home a first-ever state championship (is special),” he continued.  “Out of five (Memphis-area) schools that went up there to play, we were the only ones to come back with a championship trophy.”

The Lawson brothers both performed a scoring duet on the court, each scoring 16 points. Chandler Lawson also snagged 11 boards. 

“I’m like the facilitator and playmaker,” Johnathan Lawson said. “I feed the shooters and the scorers, making sure they get their points. We had other players that could step up and make good plays and shots.”

Alvin Miles also chipped in 11 points – and made his mom proud in the process.

“(Coach Lawson), I want to publicly tell you THANK YOU for accepting my boy in,” said Miles’ mother Cocoa Brown in a Facebook post. “Thank you for allowing my boy the opportunity to SHOWCASE his talent. Keelon, thank you for letting my boy fly!”

Chandler Lawson has won four state titles – three at Memphis East under Penny Hardaway, and now Wooddale. Keelon expects even greater things from Chandler when he arrives at Oregon.

 “I know Oregon will be expecting him to win rings for them,” Keelon said. “I’m seizing the moment. I’m definitely proud.”

This is Keelon Lawson’s first year at Wooddale, but not his first time coaching his children. He was an assistant at the University of Memphis under Josh Pastner, where he coached his older sons, Dedric and K.J. Lawson. That duo now plays for the University of Kansas.

“It’s amazing,” Keelon Lawson said with a giggle. “I’m a proud dad. You have a whole lot of dads that wish they could be in my shoes, coaching their sons on a middle and high school level and college level and winning rings at each level. A lot of dads would kill for this.”