Why top-ranked, unbeaten East Nashville boys basketball is off to best start in school history

CLOSE

East Nashville improved to 18-0 on the season with Friday's 70-59 win over Stratford. Michael Murphy / The Tennessean

Buy Photo

East Nashville‘s Brian Thompson (1) drives past Stratford‘s TaShaen Coleman (3), Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)(Photo: Wade Payne, The Tennessean)Buy Photo

CONNECTCOMMENTEMAILMORE

The East Nashville boys basketball program isn’t accustomed to flying under the radar.

That’s precisely where the Eagles found themselves a season ago, though. They were lost in the shuffle of a loaded District 10-AA that featured a pair of prized 2020 prospects at rival Stratford, a towering triple-double machine at Whites Creek and a two-time Mr. Basketball recipient at nearby Maplewood.

“To a certain degree, yeah (we felt disrespected),” East Nashville guard Jayden Lockett said. “We did beat the team that won state.”

More:

When the undersized Eagles eventually claimed their third district title of the decade, it was quickly overshadowed by Maplewood becoming the first Metro Nashville boys team to win a state basketball title in more than two decades.

FacebookPhotos: East Nashville basketball at StratfordPost to Facebook

Posted!

A link has been posted to your Facebook feed.

Buy Photo Stratford‘s Jahari Reed (4) goes for a shot as he‘s defended by East Nashville‘s Jayden Lockett (24) during their game, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo Stratford‘s Jahari Reed (4) goes for a shot as he‘s defended by East Nashville‘s Justin Williams (30) during their game, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo Stratford‘s KJ Jones (35) goes for a shot as he‘s defended by East Nashville‘s Jayden Lockett (24) during their game, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo Stratford‘s Juwan Carpenter (1) goes for a shot during their game against East Nashville, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo Stratford‘s Juwan Carpenter (1) drives as he‘s defended by East Nashville‘s Jayden Lockett, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo East Nashville‘s Monte Catlett (11) goes for a shot during their game Stratford, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo East Nashville‘s Taras Carter (0) goes for a shot past Stratford‘s taShaen Coleman (3) during their game, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo East Nashville‘s Brian Thompson looks to pass as he‘s defended by Stratford‘s TaShaen Coleman, behind, and Jahari Reed (4), Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo East Nashville‘s Justin Williams (30) goes for a shot during their game against Stratford, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo East Nashville‘s Brian Thompson (1) drives past Stratford‘s TaShaen Coleman (3), Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo Stratford‘s Kevonte Boyd, left, battles for the ball with East Nashville‘s Gene Holmes and and Justin Williams (30) during their game, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo East Nashville‘s Jayden Lockett drives against Stratford‘s Ivan Buford (5) during their game, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo Aniya Young (25) of East Nashville battles for a rebound with Stratford‘s KeyNautica Taylor (32) during their game, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo Stratford‘s Tamya Fizer battle for a rebound with East Nashville‘s Special Osborne (12) during their game, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo East Nashville‘s Kaia Lyston (14) attempt to steal the ball from Stratford‘s Mya Swanson (52) during their game, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo Stratford‘s Tamya Fizer battle for a rebound with East Nashville‘s Special Osborne (14) during their game, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo East Nashville‘s Zayla Jones (20) drives against Stratford‘s Tamya FIzer (20) during their game, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo East Nashville‘s Tameia Shaw (5) steals the ball from Stratford‘s Mya Swanson during their game, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo East Nashville‘s Tameia Shaw (5) shoots over Stratford‘s Mya Swanson during their game, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo Stratford‘s Destiny Broome shoots during their game against East Nashville, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo Stratford‘s Jaya Estridgeie (22) shoots over East Nashville‘s Kennedy Hay (30) during their game against East Nashville, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo Stratford‘s Jaya Estridgeie (22) shoots over East Nashville‘s Neisha Woodland (23) during their game against East Nashville, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo Stratford‘s Tamya Fizer shoots during their game against East Nashville, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo Stratford‘s Victoria Wallace drives against East Nashville‘s Special Osborne (12) during their game, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The TennesseanBuy Photo East Nashville‘s Special Osborne (12) drives against Stratford‘s Victoria Wallace during their game, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the Tennessean)  Wade Payne, The Tennessean

Replay

AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow Captions

“Last year we didn’t have the target on our back,” added forward Monte Catlett. 

<p class=‘p-text‘

Led by the senior quartet of Catlett, Lockett and guards Brian Thompson and Gene Holmes, East Nashville (20-0, 5-0 10-AA) is one of just four unbeaten boys teams in the state. The Eagles have outscored opponents by an average of 18.6 points en route to their best start in school history. 

More:

And with the No. 1 ranking in the initial Associated Press Class AA poll of 2017-18, the Eagles certainly won’t be soaring under anyone’s radar the rest of the way. 

“I feel like there’s some pressure on us,” Catlett said. “It kind of makes you stay humble because it’s like a bull‘s-eye on your back when you’ve got everybody trying to beat you.”

Buy Photo

East Nashville's Gene Holmes (2) reacts during the final moments of the second half against Whites Creek at Stratford High School in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. (Photo: Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean)

That bull‘s-eye was evident last Friday when East Nashville traveled across town to face second-place Stratford.

It was a raucous environment inside Charlie Anderson Gymnasium, but one that seemed to hinder the host Spartans more than the Eagles, especially during the second half of the battle of District 10-AA unbeatens.

“We knew it was going to be a hype game — the game of the week,” said Holmes, who’s averaging a team-high 15.7 points. “When it started we were playing into the crowd. Once we calmed down, we got the lead and played team ball.”

More:

Added Thompson, the 2017 William E. Hume award recipient, “We’re used to playing games like that. We just compete. They had a pep rally and everything, but we have a bigger goal than just one game.”

East Nashville, which trailed by six at the break, outscored Stratford 39-22 in the final two quarters, getting double-digit scoring performances from all five starters. 

Buy Photo

East Nashville is off to its best start in 22 seasons under Jim Fey. (Photo: Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean)

“They don’t fit into the ‘you’re a star’ category, but who do you stop?” East Nashville coach Jim Fey said. “You can say you want to focus on Gene Holmes or Jayden Lockett, but if you do that Monte Catlett is going to bury you, and so is Brian Thompson.”

It’s nothing new for the foursome, who are accounting for nearly 70 percent of the Eagles’ 69.8 points per game. Catlett, Holmes, Lockett and Thompson won a Metro city championship together as freshmen in 2014-15.

More:

“Those four have been here since the get go,” said Fey, who’s in his 22nd season leading the Metro Nashville magnet school. “It’s been a fun group to coach simply from the standpoint of watching them grow, and I have some natural leadership on the floor because they‘re all about winning.”

Reach at , and on Twitter . 

.oembed-frame { width: 100%; height: 100%; margin: 0; border: 0; }

 

CONNECTCOMMENTEMAILMORE

By