Photos by Chris Todd
By Robert Wilson

In a rematch of last year’s MAIS Overall Tournament championship game, the Madison-Ridgeland Academy boys didn’t have to have an unusual finish in regulation to win in overtime this time.

MRA jumped out to an early 14-point lead and defeated Greenville Christian 76-58 Tuesday night at MRA.

MRA improved to 10-2, won its third straight game since losing to MHSAA Class 6A state championship contender Biloxi and Christ Presbyterian Academy, one of the top teams in Tennessee. MRA, which had its 22-game winning streak broken by Biloxi, has won 37 consecutive games against MAIS teams. Greenville Christian dropped to 3-1.

MRA 5-foot-11 junior guard Josh Hubbard had 29 points and 6-5 junior forward Harrison Alexander added 21. Hubbard – a member of the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Elite 11 Preseason Team – is rated as the No. 1 player in Mississippi and the No. 35 point guard in the country in his class by ESPN. He is averaging 30 points per game this season. Greenville Christian was led by senior DJ Smith with 29 points. Smith, who is being recruited by Division I schools at quarterback in football, led Greenville Christian to its second straight MAIS Class 3A state title and a national ranking this season. This was just his second full game back playing basketball. 

Greenville Christian almost broke MRA’s winning streak last year in the Overall final. MRA scored three points in the final 1.5 seconds of regulation then outscored previously undefeated Greenville Christian in overtime for a 77-72 win. Hubbard had 36 points and Smith 33 points.

After Greenville Christian had rallied back from its 13-point halftime deficit, it appeared to have the game won after MRA missed two shots trailing 66-63 with just a few seconds to play. Alexander was called for an intentional foul on Smith with 2 seconds to play, but one of Greenville Christian’s players ran onto the court from the bench and received a technical foul. Smith missed both of his free throws and Hubbard made one of his technical foul shots to cut Greenville Christian’s lead to 66-64. MRA got the ball because of the technical. After not being able to get the ball in and calling two consecutive timeouts, Tylor Latham threw the ball into Alexander, who missed a 3-point attempt from the corner. But Davis Dalton caught it and scored as the buzzer sounded for a 66-66 tie to force overtime. Phillip Hughes scored two quick baskets in overtime and MRA never trailed again.

MRA coach Richard Duease, the winningest high school basketball coach in Mississippi history and third most in wins among active coaches in the country, won his 1,744th game Tuesday in his 47th season, the last 40 at MRA. Duease is also the winningest boys coach in Mississippi history with 1,352 victories. He has won 40 state championships and 15 Overall titles, 13 boys and two girls.

Despite jumping out a big lead in the first half, Duease knew Greenville Christian could come back Tuesday.

“We came out early and guarded hard and made some shots, but at halftime I reminded the guys we were up 16 in the third quarter in the Overall last year,” Duease said. “I didn’t want that to happen again. Greenville Christian is very dangerous.”

“We didn’t come out and execute the way we needed to to start the game,” Greenville Christian coach Logan Collins said. “I can give several excuses for why that was, but that’s all they be…excuses. MRA came out ready to play, and we were flat. It’s hard to beat a team as talented and well coached as MRA when you come out flat. But I was proud of the fact we kept fighting the whole game. We were able to pull it within I think 8 points, once we started trusting each other and our sets. Unfortunately, they went on a run right after that to push it back up around 16. The guys responded well to our postgame discussion. They know the season is early and that we’ve got work to do, and they’re ready to get after it.”

Greenville Christian senior center Daishun Scott had 15 points.