Photos by Hays Collins
Story by Robert Wilson
Michael McAnally coached the East Rankin Academy girls to its first MAIS Overall Tournament championship in school history in 2010.
The former Jackson Prep point guard is one win away from coaching his alma mater to an Overall girls title this year and the first one at Prep since 2006.
Prep defeated Bowling Green, La., 41-36 in overtime in the Overall semifinals Monday at Mississippi College in Clinton.
Class 6A state champion Prep improved to 36-2 and won its 14th straight game. Prep meets defending Overall champion and Class 5A state champion Leake, 37-3, for the Overall championship Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Mississippi College. Leake, which defeated Hartfield Academy 52-49 in the other semifinal Monday, defeated Prep 61-37 Dec. 11 in Madden to end Prep’s 15-game winning streak to start the season. Leake also defeated Leake 72-60 in the Overall quarterfinals last season at Leake. Leake is the only team to score more than 46 points on Prep all season and the 72 points in the Overall quarterfinals was more than any team had scored on Prep last season. Prep will be trying for its sixth Overall girls title in school history (Prep won fourth straight from 1979-1982). Class 5A runner-up Bowling Green finished 24-10.
It took overtime Monday for Prep to get a shot at this year’s championship. Prep trailed 17-16 at halftime, but senior guard Olivia Smith scored all 10 of her points in the second half (4 of 6 from the field and 2 of 3 from 3-point range) and also had four rebounds and two steals to lead Prep to a 27-24 lead after three quarters and ahead 35-32 and appeared to be headed to victory in the final seconds. But Prep fouled Bowling Green senior guard Hope Crowe on a 3-point attempt with 6 seconds to play and Crowe made all three free throws attempts to send the game into overtime.
Bowling Green got the tip in overtime and held the ball until Prep senior guard Josie Duncan made a steal and layup for a 37-35 Prep lead with 2:03 to play. After Bowling Green sophomore Bailey Devail made a free throw, Prep senior forward Madeleine Black made two free throws with 55 seconds to play and Prep senior point guard and Alabama-Huntsville signee Andie Flatgard made two free throws with 6 seconds to play to clinch the win.
Flatgard finished with a game-high 13 points. Devall had 12 points and 12 rebounds for Bowling Green.
“I thought Bowling Green was terrific today,” said McAnally, who won his 602nd career boys and girls game in 21 seasons, with 172 wins in the last eight years at Prep. “They gave us several different looks and were extremely efficient shooting the basketball. We made some mistakes today that are a little uncharacteristic of us, but I think that was in a large part because we played a very skilled team who was well coached and well prepared.
“I was proud of our girls for showing a lot of grit. We made big plays when we had to today – whether it was a defensive stop or hitting a big shot. We found a way to answer when we needed to and that’s what you have to do this time of year.”
Prep didn’t have any answers for Leake in December.
Leake came out with an aggressive defense, intense determination, and accurate shooting to win going away in front of packed gym. Leake got off to the 8-0 start, Leake led 13-6 after one quarter, 27-17 at half and 43-21 after three quarters. Prep got within 6 in the second quarter but couldn’t get closer. Leake scored the first 8 points of the third quarter to stretch the lead to 16 and Prep never recovered. Leake’s biggest lead was 27 points in the fourth quarter.
Leake made 11 of 25 3-pointers, 44 percent, and had multiple 3-pointers from four different players. Junior guard Miriam Prince had a game-high 21 points, four 3-pointers.
Flatgard came into that game averaging 18 points per game and leading Mississippi with 40 3-pointers this season. She scored 4 points in the first quarter and none in the second and third quarters. Flatgard scored 12 in the fourth quarter to finish with 16, but Leake led comfortably going into the fourth quarter. Leake held Flatgard without a 3-pointer. Prep was 1 of 16 from 3-point range.
It was Leake’s 59th consecutive win in Madden, a place where it hasn’t lost since 2017.
“Leake is a great team and the defending champion,” McAnally said. “They present several challenges because of their offensive prowess. Our team will have to be at their best, but that should be the case for an Overall state championship game.”