STORY BY CHIP CIRILLO | PHOTOS BY DEB SCALLY PHOTOGRAPHY
MURFREESBORO – Bentwood ran into the nation’s top prospect Friday.
The Bruins kept the game close the entire way before falling 46-42 to Memphis East, a three-time defending state champion, in a Class AAA semifinal at MTSU’s Murphy Center on Friday.
James Wiseman, a 7-foot- center, led the Mustangs (25-8) with 22 points, eight blocked shots, seven rebounds and four dunks.
“I thought we came out and battled for 32 minutes,” Bruins coach Greg Shirley said. “We didn’t back down at all. It shows the great character that these young men have.”
Wiseman, a Memphis signee who transferred from Ensworth to East after his sophomore year, hit 10 of 14 from the floor.
“Just take over the game and lead my team,” Wiseman said of his fourth-quarter mindset. “I just wanted to be a leader and be there for my team.”
Brentwood’s Harry Lackey hit two foul shots to narrow the gap to 36-35 with 4:22 left, but that was as close as the Bruins (27-9) came.
“We’re a family, we’ve got a lot of seniors, our chemistry is like no other,” Lackey said. “I’ll always remember the guys on this team for happy memories we made. You can’t say that we didn’t play hard tonight. The shots didn’t fall.”
Ben Mills and John Windley double-teamed Wiseman, containing the Mr. Basketball winner as much as they could.
“It was an honor,” Mills said. “Not many people can say they did that. It was just another challenge. I thought I fought hard.”
Brentwood packed its defense in a 2-3 zone and the game chugged along at a slow pace.
“He is ranked No. 1 in the nation for a reason,” Shirley said of Wiseman. “He is a very skilled young man. We’ve played man defense probably 75, 80 percent of the year. We thought that (zone) gave us the best opportunity to be successful.”
Lackey led the Bruins with 13 points and four steals.
Cole Massey nearly had a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds.
“Obviously, you respect somebody as talented as he is,” Shirley said of Wiseman. “Great player, great team. We honestly thought we were going to come over here and get a win.”
Wiseman has been named Gatorade Tennessee Basketball Player of the Year. He’s also a finalist for national player of the year.
East will play Bearden (31-5) in the championship at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Memphis-area teams have won 17 of he last 19 Class AAA titles.
“There just wasn’t enough time on the clock,” Lackey said.
Brentwood reached the semifinals for the fourth time in seven years.
“When we were in sixth through eighth grade the senior class made the final four each year and it just set a precedent that excellence is a standard at BHS,” said Mills, who fouled out with 1:10 left.
“Ever since then, we knew we would make a big run. I’m content with how we finished our careers. We’ll go down as one of the best teams in Brentwood history and that means everything to me.”
East coach Jevonte Holmes praised Brentwood as one of the most disciplined teams the Mustangs have faced this season.
It was an emotional win for Holmes, who’s under a lot of pressure replacing former East coach Penny Hardaway, who left to take the Memphis job.
East is one win away from becoming the first pubic school to win four consecutive state titles. The Mustangs are seeking their 10th state championship.
“There’s a long line of tradition at East High School and I’m honored to be part of it,” Holmes said.