By David Perry
MURFREESBORO — There was uncertainty going into this basketball season in the Memphis area because of the rising COVID-19 cases in October and November.
A team hoping to hit the court for the 2020-21 season was the Houston Mustangs. Last season Houston earned a historic trip to State led by Charlie Leonard, but the global pandemic canceled the tournament just days prior. So 2021 was the Mustang’s second time reaching the State Tournament but first appearance.
Total redemption came for the Mustangs Saturday night by winning the Class 3A State Championship 62-43 over Cane Ridge on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University.
Houston Head Coach Mike Miller, staff and players claimed the school’s first golden basketball at half court of the Murphy Center. Just a few months Houston’s dream of winning the championship was in doubt along with playing the season.
With cases of COVID-19 spiking up, there was a chance that the season might be put to a hold. However selected high schools were given the chance to play while others like Shelby County Schools canceled the season.
Houston was one of the selected few that were able to play, and with that privilege, they advanced to the Division I-3A State Tournament and won three games to earn the 2021 State Champions. The Mustang’s road to the title started with a 70-58 win Thursday over Clarksville. Then Houston won its semifinal contest Friday 77-45 over Oak Ridge. Then came time for the school’s first State title beating Cane Ridge 62-43.
The Mustangs were the favorite to win the tournament before the season started loaded with D-I talent and guided by former NBA champion Miller. Prior to taking over the Houston job, Miller wan an assistant coach at The University of Memphis.
The Mustangs’ starting line-up includes Creighton commit Mason Miller, son of Mike Miller. Other Houston standouts are LSU commit Jerrell Colbert, Oregon commit Johnathan Lawson, and D-I prospects TJ Madlock and Zander Yates.
“The hardest thing for these guys is coming in here understanding that we got a very talented group and locking into what we need to do and make sure we win,” Coach Miller said.
Lawson was the key player during the tournament as he was the most experienced playing for two State champions prior to his run with Houston, 2018 East High School and 2019 Wooddale.
“I’m very excited and happy that I went out with a bang,” Lawson said.
The 6-foot-7 guard averaged 20 points a game and shot 50% from the field earning the 2021 Tournament MVP.
“He’s a winner,” Miller said. “That’s the best thing you can say about anybody.”
Alongside from Lawson, Madlock was impactful defensively as he was responsible for holding Brandon Miller, the No. 1 junior in Tennessee. He allowed the Ravne guard only 11 points on 4 of 12 shooting.
“Basically just don’t let him win the game for them,” Madlock said. “I have one job and that’s to stop the best player. And that’s always been my job the whole season, to stop the best player.”
Mason Miller picked up 9 points and 8 rebounds, and Colbert added 14 points and 7 rebounds. Yates had 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks to add with the win.
Even though Mike Miller led the Mustangs to a title, he gave credit to the former Head Coach, Charlie Leonard.
“This is his trophy, he built this program and Mr. (Chad) Becker (athletic director) built this program.” Miller concluded.