Panthers, Lady Firebirds Finish Regular Season On Top

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East Nashville’s Erica Haynes-Overton became her school’s all-time leading scorer. Photo by Jerry Holt

NASHVILLE, TN — High school basketball’s exciting part of the season is among us. The playoffs are here and it should be interesting in all three districts that Metro Nashville schools are participating in. Last season, the East Nashville Lady Eagles (23-5 overall, 14-2 metro and 12-2 district) finished the season undefeated in metro on their way to the Class AA championship. On the boys’ side, the Whites Creek Cobras (23-4, 13-2 and 13-1) made it to the semi-finals of the Class AA tournament.

This season two other teams finished the regular season at the top of the Wallace Media Group Metro Sweet 16 standings. On the girls’ side, the Pearl-Cohn Lady Firebirds (18-3, 13-1 and 12-1) used one the best ‘starting fives’ in the state to overtake East in the regular season.

Leading scorer senior Janiah Sandifer along with ultra-quick point guard Shania Shaw, have carried head coach Kendra Bailey’s team. Three-point specialist Shanice Nelson along with twin towers Youbryan Chambers and Monae Mayes have chipped in to help take the District 10AA regular season crown.

East has the best player in the district and potentially in the state in Miss Basketball finalist senior Erica Hayes-Overton. The East Tennessee State signee is averaging close to a triple double on the season (23.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.6 steals). Classmate Kyra Trice stepped up last season during the tournament and will be relied upon again this year. Sophomore post Quentarra Mitchell had her coming out party in February and March as well to lead the Lady Eagles to their first state title. Lady Eagle all state point guard Kaia Upton has been out since December leaving more playing time for freshman Ariel Richardson and classmate London Fairs.

In 12AAA, three teams with two district losses apiece, are favored to make a run to the title. Third ranked Antioch (18-5, 14-3 and 12-2) has won 10 of the last 11 games with their loss coming to fourth ranked Hillsboro (16-9, 13-3 and 12-2) led by 6’4 Kentucky signee Dorie Harrison. Fifth ranked Cane Ridge won the whole thing last year and looks primed for a long run.

Four boys’ teams come into the postseason with one loss in their district while Class A powerhouse Lead Academy finished their district undefeated. Head coach Carlton Battle’s Cobra team still feels they have something to prove to in 10AA. Their goal of going undefeated in the district slipped through their hands in a road loss to Maplewood on February 3rd. Mr. Basketball finalist Bo Hodges of the Maplewood Panthers (21-5, 14-1 and 13-1) has had an injury plagued season but is healthy now. The veteran Panther team is looking to copy what Whites Creek did last year and take the postseason district title to go with the regular season title.

Upset-minded East Nashville (19-7, 12-5 and 10-4) is a balanced team that took Whites Creek to the brink in both of their contests before falling. Under-rated small forward Jayden Lockett leads an undersized frontline with junior classmates Brian Thompson and Monte Catlett. East backcourt duo of senior Marques Whitmon II and Gene Holmes are also a handful on both sides of the court.

For Maplewood and East to overtake the Cobras, they will have to contend with four players that played heavy minutes last season in the tournament. 6’10 Ruot Monyyong and frontline mate 6-7 Jaquan Brooks are arguably two of the best big men in the state. Scrappy Jacob Frazier scored 27 points and had 16 rebounds in Whites Creek’s state quarterfinal game last season. Sharp-shooter Isiah Bowers has a 32-point game under his belt this season. Those four along with 6’3 point guard Dennis Stallings looked primed to make another run.

12AA boys should be fun as well with four teams having a legitimate shot at the title. Third ranked Cane Ridge (23-5, 16-1 and 13-1) has been steady all season. Their lone loss in metro was to fourth ranked Antioch (21-4, 14-3 and 13-1) who finished the season with a 14 game winning streak. Seventh ranked Glencliff (14-12, 10-6 and 9-5) got a lift this week with the return of point guard Michael Parker from injury. Eight-ranked Hillsboro (15-9, 9-7 and 7-6) has victories over metro’s top two teams.

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