MADSION – Madison-Ridgeland Academy hasn’t won an MAIS Overall boys basketball championship since 2018, a major drought considering the Patriots have won 10 Overall titles in the last 16 years.
The way MRA played Thursday night, that drought could easily end this spring.
MRA, behind sophomore guard Josh Hubbard’s 33 points, cruised to a 77-41 victory over Hartfield Academy in a battle of two Overall championship contenders at MRA.
The 5-foot-11 Hubbard, considered one of the top sophomore guards in the South, put on a show, scoring his 33 points on an array of pull up 3-point jumpers, many several feet beyond the 3-point line (he finished with seven 3s), drives to the basket, steals and two-handed slam dunks before MRA coach Richard Duease took him out with 5 minutes, 30 seconds to play. Hubbard is averaging 34 points in his last four games and 25.8 for the season for MRA, which improved to 8-1, 7-0 against MAIS competition. He averaged 18.1 points as a freshman.
“Josh can make shots from the parking lot,” Duease said. “And if you come out to guard him, he will blow past you to the bucket.”
Even with Velma Jackson transfer and 6-2 senior guard Josh Lee added to the lineup, Hartfield couldn’t stay with MRA, which led 40-29 at halftime and 67-39 after three quarters. Lee, considered one of the top players in Mississippi, had 21 points before going out with about 2 minutes to go with a wrist injury. Lee scored 17 points in the first half. Lee was averaging 22.2 points this season for Hartfield, which dropped to 7-2 and lost to its first MAIS opponent this season. Lee averaged 23.3 points and led Velma Jackson to a MHSAA Class 3A runner up finish last season and helped Velma Jackson to the 3A state title as a sophomore.
“Obviously MRA is a really good team. I thought we defended well the first half it’s just that Hubbard and (Phillip) Hughes hit contested, deep threes,” Hartfield coach Steven Makamson said, “We felt it would be unlikely they would continue that kind of shooting for two halves, but they did. We played hard, but couldn’t get much going offensively due to MRA’s intense defense. When your not hitting shots and your opponent is consistently hitting contested NBA 3’s, it’s tough to stay in a game mentally.”
MRA finished 32-7, winning a Class 6A state title (the school’s sixth straight) and an Overall semifinal appearance, losing to eventual champion Simpson Academy last season. MRA’s last Overall title in 2018. The last time MRA had failed to win an Overall two straight seasons before this latest drought was 2012 and 2013.
But Duease likes this team, especially Thursday night.
“We’ve got a good group,” Duease said. “They play hard and play team ball. We played great team defense tonight.”
Phillip Hughes – a 6-foot senior guard and son of Whit, the sixth man on Mississippi State’s 1996 Final Four team – showed off an array of moves, spins and dribbling, scoring 20 points, including three 3-pointers in the first quarter. Hughes also had the assignment to cover Lee and kept him from going off on a tear. Junior forward Davis Dalton, who is fresh off the football field as MRA’s leading receiver on the back-to-back Class 6A state championship teams, added nine points off the bench and played solid defense.
Duease, the winningest basketball coach in Mississippi history, won his 1,709th game in his 46th season. He is the third winningest active boys coach with 1,117 wins. Duease has won 39 state championships and 14 Overall titles in his career, the last 39 years at MRA.