By Robert Wilson
The glory years of the winningest boys basketball program in MAIS history are back.
Jackson Prep – owners of more MAIS boys Overall titles than any school is history – is back on top for the second consecutive year for the first time since a three-peat in the 1990s.
Prep defeated Clinton Christian Academy 58-46 for the Overall championship Wednesday night before an estimated 2,500 at Mississippi College’s A.E. Wood Coliseum/Mike Jones Court in Clinton.
Class 6A state runner-up Prep finished 30-6 and avenged two defeats to CCA during the regular season. Prep had lost to CCA 53-46 Nov. 10 at CCA and 71-52 Dec. 9 at Prep. Class 4A state champion CCA, trying to win its first Overall in school history, finished 40-5.
Prep – which has a MAIS record 16 Overall championships – had not win two straight Overall titles since Coach Gerald Austin led the Patriots to three consecutive titles in 1996-1998. Andy Segrest was one of those stars in the three-peat and his sons, senior Luke and sophomore Ben, were a big part of this year’s state championship run.
Luke had 14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal. Ben had 11 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist and 1 steal.
Another big key for Prep came from 6-foot-4 junior forward Konnor Griffin, who is more known for being the No. 1 baseball player in the country in the Class of 2024. Griffin led Prep with 15 points, 15 rebounds, 3 blocked shots, 1 assist and 1 steal.
Prep coach Tim Wise was determined not to let CCA’s talented duo of senior guard KJ Sykes and junior forward Trey Alexander – who combined for 66 points in a 74-67 win over 6A state champion Madison-Ridgeland Academy in the semifinals – beat his team Wednesday. Sykes finished with 13 points and Alexander 10 points.
“Those two guys were averaging 25 and 23 points in the Overall and had combined for 66 against MRA so we were going to try to make other players than them beat us,” said Wise, who finished his sixth seasons at Prep after coaching at Millsaps College for 14 seasons. “Obviously, our pace is not their pace. One big factor – defensive transition – had to be there. We were only sending one player (Griffin) to the offensive glass so that was a point of emphasis for us. Konnor was going to go to the glass and everybody else was going to get back so we could give them a set defense. We had our offense somewhat scripted out; we call it our go-to list. We went with Konnor inside early. We were very fortunate it worked out. Luke is a three-year starter, and he has been our heart and soul. Konnor, an addition from our junior high team, is the man and makes athletic plays. I was proud of our senior group. We had some who were part of the practices and contributed and accepted their roles the way we try to teach unity and teamwork.”
“Congratulations to Coach Wise and his team,” CCA coach Josh Zietz said. “They were the better team tonight. I am proud of my guys for continuing to fight but if you don’t make shots, it is tough to beat a good team. Credit to them for having a good plan. We had a very tough road to the final and we looked physically and mentally drained in the fourth quarter.
Zietz was very proud of Sykes, who had been starting since the seventh grade.
“I want to thank KJ (CCA’s only senior) for an incredible career,” Zietz said. “He scored more than 3,000 points and did it with class and humility. I will never coach a better player or person. We have been through a lot together. We have won four district championships, two south state championships and two state championships. He will be a three-time player of the year and he will be playing in college. I’m honored to be his coach.”