Memphis East Denied DICK'S Nationals Opportunity By TSSAA

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The team was deserving. The desire was legitimate. All that was left was hope, and it all came to an end in rather painful fashion for one of the best squads in the country.

Although No. 4 Memphis East (TN) continues its Tennessee Class AAA state title quest Wednesday night against East Hamilton, this will be the final stop of the season. Nothing more.

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) has denied head coach Penny Hardaway and the Mustangs a chance to play at DICK'S Sporting Goods Nationals from March 30 to April 1 in New York.

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Neither the school's petition nor its final request to the TSSAA Board of Control was successful. Tennessee State Senator Brian Kelsey even went to make a case for the perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

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Article IV, Section 9 states: "The sports season for a school shall end when the team has been eliminated from the TSSAA tournament series or has won the state championship. The sports season shall end for a school whose team does not enter the tournament series with the playing of the last regularly scheduled game."

This was an uphill battle from the start. 

First, there is a bylaw that "only one out-of-state trip involving travel in excess of 600 miles round-trip" would be permitted. So when Memphis East participated in the Culligan City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Florida, in December, a spot in the exclusive high school tournament didn't seem possible.

Yet, even if that was waived, it appears there was no getting around the TSSAA's final decision.

At 30-3, this has been a magical ride for Memphis East. It has provided many highlight moments and livened the community. 

The state tournament is the end of the road, though, and the only thing remaining is to cherish the final moments of an incredible season that took high school basketball by storm.

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