By Robert Wilson
Even without star point guard Miriam Prince missing her ninth straight game with an injury, the Leake Academy girls basketball team kept its five-year consecutive home winning streak alive Friday night.
Senior guard Emeri Warren scored a career-high 21 points, including five 3-pointers, to lead Leake to its 68th consecutive home victory with a 51-32 win over East Rankin Academy in a MAIS Class 5A, District 2 game before a full gym of an estimated 700 fans at Joe Shepherd Gym on Doyle Wolverton Court in Madden.
Leake, which improved to 17-1 overall and 3-0 in district play, won its fourth straight game and 37 of its last 40 games. Leake’s only loss was a 64-45 loss at Class 5A rival Pillow Academy when Leake was not only without Prince but also junior forward Katye Jones, out due to sickness. Leake defeated Pillow 58-35 with Prince and Jones on Nov. 15 at Leake.
Leake – which lost to Jackson Prep for the Overall Tournament championship and has reached the Overall title game in four of the past five seasons (winning it in 2021) – hasn’t lost a home game since losing to Kirk Academy on Nov. 16, 2017.
East Rankin, which starts one of the youngest lineups in the state (two freshmen, one sophomore, one junior, and one senior), dropped to 11-9 overall and 1-2 in district play.
Prince, considered one of the best shooters in Mississippi, is still not able to play, suffering from pain in her leg from surgery this summer. Prince and her 19.9 points per game scoring average was on the bench – she needed a rest after playing five games in eight days (Prince had been going nonstop since the season began after recovering from surgery on July 13 to repair a fracture in one of her lower legs). She is expected back after Christmas, Leake coach Amanda Hatch said.
Warren, who also had a team-high eight rebounds, made 5 of 9 from 3-point range. Leake made 9 of 26 3-point attempts (34.6 percent). The Lady Rebels have made 149 of 456 (32.6 percent) this season. Warren, senior Allen Kaye Wilcox, and senior Grace Maxey hit consecutive 3s late in the fourth quarter to push the lead to 22 at 48-26.
Leake, without Prince, set a Mississippi record with 20 3-pointers in an 87-40 victory over Memphis St. Agnes Academy at Holiday Shootout at Marshall Academy in Holly Springs. Leake broke the Mississippi record held by Pontotoc High, which made 17 3-pointers against H.W. Byers on Nov. 21, 2013, according to the national high school record book.
The 5-foot-10 Jones added 10 points Friday night for Leake. Jones scored a career-high 19 points in a win over Prep Saturday at Prep.
“We got off to a slow start offensively as a team (ahead only 10-7 after the first quarter), but Emeri was feeling it the whole game,” said Hatch, who has a 301-33 record – an amazing 90.2 percent winning percentage – in her ninth season at Leake and has 415 career wins in her 14th season as a head coach. “She plays so hard on both ends of the floor and really brings energy every game. From defense and rebounding to running the floor and knocking down shots, Emeri is able to do it all and really stepped up tonight.”
Freshman Holly Jackson had a team-high 15 points for East Rankin, which not only is playing with a young lineup but also without 6-2 junior Abagail Stevens, who was one of three sophomores to make the 20-player PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard All Metro Jackson Girls Basketball Team last season. Stevens decided not to play basketball season after verbally committing to play softball at Mississippi State.
“Leake is a very good team and that is a fun place to play,” second-year East Rankin coach Brooke Rhodes, who is considered one of the best players in MAIS history when she played at East Rankin from 2007-2010. “Leake is one of the standards of MAIS basketball. I am proud of how hard we played and competed, we struggled at times to have shots fall but kept competing and made some hustle plays.”
Leake will try to continue its winning ways next week when the Lady Rebels play against Bayou Academy Monday and Pillow Tuesday at Kirk Academy Classic in Grenada. Prince could possibly return when Leake plays MHSAA Class 5A Columbus High at Columbus Christian on Nov. 27.