EAST NASHVILLE- With the calendar turning to March, there are a few things you can count on. The weather starts to get warmer, and sunlight is longer. At East Nashville Magnet, you can count on their basketball teams playing for a berth to the state championships. “We have a standard here at East, one team one goal,” said East Boys Head Coach Avery Patton. “The goal every year is the gold ball. The girls have one, but we don’t. I really think both teams have a chance.”
Patton and girls head coach Kyle Upton have come close when they were assistants for former boy’s head coach Jim Fey. Upton was an assistant in 2018 when the girls won state. His cousin, Kaia Upton was a sophomore on the team and was named the tournament Most Valuable Player. That team had four players to go to NCAA Division 1 schools. Senior sharpshooter Le’Jzae Davidson starred at Furman University. Junior Erica Haynes-Overton and Kaia Upton played for East Tennessee State and freshman Quentarra Mitchell is now at Chicago State.
Coach Upton’s current team doesn’t have the star power that the 2018 had. But the work effort is about the same. Upton starts three sophomores and two seniors. Sophomore Jazz Walter won the district regular season and tournament player of the year award. Senior starters Ayanna Kinnard and Emoni Wofford bring the leadership. Sophomore post Jayla Horton and sharpshooter sophomore Kenya Fairs have been steady all year. Upton also has the luxury of a strong bench lead by junior Paige Wallace and another sophomore Cleo Johnson.
“This team works hard especially on the defensive end,” said Kyle Upton. “The 2018 team is arguably the best team in school history. We are young and hungry. We will have to win it all to be talked about in the same way as 2018. Only time will tell.”
Patton’s team is also young and hungry. Senior Jarrod Taylor has bullied his way to be named a Class AA Mr. Basketball Finalist. Four juniors round out the starting five. Point guard Jaylen Jones, who scored his 1,000th career point in the region final, is arguably the top junior in Tennessee. Post Razz Armstrong is a dominate player in the middle, Jordan Crawford’s range is when he walks into the gym. Jacolby Summers is a do everything forward that doesn’t get much press. Patton also leans on seniors Willie Wilson and Cullen Cleaves off the bench.
“I just want to win,” said Jones. “We made it to state my freshman year and couldn’t play due to COVID. Last year we made it here and loss. We have won a lot of games but that doesn’t mean anything. Every team is 0-0. Nobody will give us anything. We must play our best game.” The girls will be on the road Saturday against Westmoreland High School at 7pm. The boys will be at home on Monday at 7pm against Jackson County High School.