The Jackson Academy Raiders played the Madison Central Jaguars in the Rumble in the South basketball showcase on Saturday, January 20, 2024, at the A.E. Wood Coliseum on the Mississippi College campus in Clinton, Miss.

Sponsored by:
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Jackson Academy

By Robert Wilson
Photos by Chris Todd

       CLINTON – MHSAA Class 7A Madison Central became the 24th victim this season of the suffocating, tenacious, pressure defense of MAIS Class 6A Jackson Academy Saturday afternoon at the Rumble in the South at Mississippi College’s A.E. Wood Coliseum.

       Led by Mike Williams – son of former NBA champion and NBA All-Star Mo Williams – JA forced eight turnovers in the first four minutes and 16 turnovers in the first half for a 27-point halftime lead and cruised to an 80-48 victory.

       JA improved to 24-1 overall and 4-1 against MHSAA teams, with its only loss a 70-59 defeat to Class 6A Pascagoula. It was the 17th win by more than 20 points this season. Madison Central, which has split with Pascagoula this season, dropped to 15-7 and broke a five-game winning streak.
       Mike Williams – a 6-foot junior guard who is rated as the No. 22 best shooting guard in the Class of 2025 in the country by 247 Composite – hit the first of his game-high 24 points a minute into the game. He had 15 points in the first half and finished with his 24 points in 24 minutes and also had 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. Williams came into Saturday averaging 20 points per game, ninth best in Mississippi and tied for first in 3-pointers in Mississippi, according to MaxPreps.

       Madison Central is just the latest of the teams, which couldn’t handle the pressure of JA’s defense.

       “We have guys that have bought into the style of defense that we teach at JA,” second-year JA coach Jesse Taylor said. “They have fully embraced a pressure, defensive system that challenges them every day at practice. This style of defense is only effective when everyone buys in. It has become our identity as a team.”

       JA never trailed, led 20-6 after one quarter, 33-6 midway through the second quarter and 40-15 at halftime.

       JA shot 53.3 percent from the field, 90 percent from the free throw line, had 25 points off turnovers, outrebounded Madison Central 34-25, had 14 steals, caused 20 turnovers and had 22 assists on 32 made baskets.

       “I thought our guys played the most complete game all year,” Howell said. “Guys were doing the little things, hitting shots, making the extra passes, ultimately playing together. It’s because of the respect we have for (Madison Central) Coach (Ben) Gardner and his players. They are the No. 1 team in 7A. Coach Gardner has his team taking care of business in district play.”

       In addition to Williams, his younger brother Mason Williams had 11 points, 6 assists and 2 steals in 19 minutes. Junior guard Schyler Chambers had 13 points in 21 minutes. Junior guard Caleb Gaitor had a game-high four steals.

Senior guard Elijah White led Madison Central with 14 points. Junior guard Cody White added 12 points.

       “The game was one sided from the jump,” Gardner said. “I felt like we were on our heels from the beginning. We never got into a rhythm offensively and didn’t play with the intensity or physicality that have become our trademark defensively. Lots of credit to Jackson Academy and Jesse Taylor. They have a special team. We have seen Yazoo City, Booneville, and Pascagoula. None dominated in all three phases like JA did today. They are complete team that play together at a high level and will be a difficult team to beat in the private school division.

       “Our focus now returns to district play and getting back to what has gotten us to a 5-0 and first place in district play in one of the more competitive districts in the highest classification of MHSAA. Today’s result doesn’t deter us from our goals. It will instead focus us and drive us to finish our race well.”