By Robert Wilson
There’s some bad news for the rest of the MAIS girls basketball teams.
Leake Academy star senior point guard Miriam Prince – one of the top scorers in Mississippi – is about 85 percent, according to her coach, Amanda Hatch, after recovering from surgery July 13 to repair a fracture in one of her lower legs.
The 5-foot-8 Prince opened the season last week at the Madison Madness tournament at Madison-Ridgeland Academy, averaging 21.5 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals and 2.5 assists and 23 minutes and led Leake to wins over Bayou Academy and MRA.
“Miriam really worked hard on her rehab late summer through now,” Hatch said. “She is probably about 85 percent right now, so will continue her rehab (with Performance Therapy in Philadelphia) while we are starting out our season. She played very well last week. She will only continue to improve in every way.
“Miriam knows what it will take for us to get back to the state and Overall championships with a chance to win, and she had her teammates have the desire to get there despite any obstacles. She is surrounded by family and teammates who support and encourage her.”
“I am glad the season is finally here,” Prince said. “My recovery is going well, and I’ve taken the last 100 days of healing to reflect on how I’m thankful for the game God has given me. We opened the season with a well-coached Bayou team and a perennial power MRA is always challenging. I’m surrounded by great teammates and led by a great coach. It’s a blessing and so much fun.”
“Miriam looked like she was fully recovered to me,” said MRA coach Stephen Force, who watched Prince score 19 points and defeat MRA 42-25. “She did a great job getting the ball where it needed to be. Her teammates did a great job of really complimenting her. They will be tough to beat if her teammates play that well around her.”
Prince – who was named the MAIS Class 5A Player of the Year – averaged 19.2 points, 4.9 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 0.5 blocked shots and led Leake to a 37-4 record and the MAIS Overall Tournament runner-up finish last season. She shot 53.8 percent from the field, 33.5 percent from 3-point range and 71.6 percent from the free throw line. Prince scored a career-high 40 points against Simpson last season. It was the most points at Leake since Susan Byrd scored 56 in 1989.
Leake’s top seven players return from last year’s team and is the favorite to win the MAIS Class 5A tournament and Overall Tournament this season.
Prince scored 2,167 career points going into this season and had 43 last week. If she matches last year’s point total of 787, she will finish with 2,954 career points. That would be put second in Leake history in career points, behind Susan Byrd, who scored 3,187 from 1986-90. Byrd ranks fourth among Mississippians in MAIS history in career scoring. A repeat performance this year by Prince in points would put her sixth in MAIS career points behind Teresa Hayman, who scored 3,006 points for Mississippi Baptist from 1979-1983 and is fifth.
“The sky is the limit for Miriam,” Hatch said. “She has the ball handling skills, scoring ability, court vision, defensive awareness, understanding of the game, and incredible work ethic that will really make her a great college player at one of the highest levels. Because of the time spends in the gym and the quality of work she puts in, Miriam has greatly improved each season.”
Leake’s next game is Tuesday at Heritage. Leake’s first seven games on the road. Following Heritage, Leake plays Jackson Academy, Madison St. Joseph, and Starkville Academy before its first home game Nov. 15 against Pillow.
Leake has won 65 consecutive home games, dating back to Nov. 16, 2017, against Kirk Academy. Presbyterian Christian almost ended the streak last season in the Overall Tournament quarterfinals before Leake’s Morgan Freeny made a layup with 0.4 seconds to play for a 31-30 victory.
Hatch has a 286-32 record – an amazing 89.9 percent winning percentage – in her ninth season at Leake and has 401 career wins in her 14th season as a head coach. She has taken Leake to the Overall title game four of the past five seasons, winning it in 2021.