By Robert Wilson
Photos by Robert Smith
FLOWOOD – Jackson Prep coach Tim Wise – the 2022 PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Boys Basketball Coach of the Year – knew his Patriots had to try to keep Madison-Ridgeland Academy’s Josh Hubbard -one of the Top 20 point guards in the country – below his 27.3 scoring average to have a shot to win.
Prep held Hubbard to only nine points in the first half, one of his lowest point production in two quarters of his brilliant career.
But what Wise didn’t count on was his team’s stone-cold shooting from the field.
MRA jumped out to an 11-0 lead, led 26-9 at halftime and defeated defending MAIS Overall Tournament champion Prep 49-35 Tuesday night in a key Class 6A matchup at Prep.
MRA improved to 20-6 overall and 1-0 in conference play. Prep dropped to 17-4 overall and 1-1 in conference play. The teams will meet again Jan. 27 at MRA.
Prep shot only 25 percent from the field (12 of 48) and only 14 percent in the first half (3 of 21) and didn’t get into double figures until senior guard Luke Segrest made a 3-pointer in the first minute of the third quarter.
Said MRA coach Richard Duease: “When we put our minds to it, we can be a good defensive team. I was pleased tonight with our defense. We were focused.”
And 5-foot-11 Hubbard – an Ole Miss signee and the MAIS all-time scoring leader – got warmed up in the fourth quarter and finished with 20 points and kept Prep from catching up despite an outstanding effort from Segrest, who finished with a game-high 24 points, 19 in the second half.
Hubbard hit a 3-pointer on MRA’s first possession of the game and made two free throws before picking up his second foul two minutes into the game. He didn’t play the rest of the quarter, but his teammates stepped up and increased the lead. MRA led 13-7 after one quarter.
Behind Segrest’s hot shooting in the second half (5 of 10 from 3-point range), Prep got as close as seven points, 39-32, on a deep 3-pointer by Segrest with 6 minutes to play. But MRA’s defense didn’t let Prep get any closer.
Hubbard made 6 of 12 shots from the field, 1 of 3 from 3-point range, and 7 of 9 from the free throw line. He had a game-high three assists and four rebounds.
“It was a great start for us for the start of conference play,” said Hubbard, who is ranked as the No. 1 overall player in Mississippi and No. 69 overall player in country and the No. 17 point guard in the country on ESPN’s 2023 Top 100 and was the 2022 PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Player of the Year. “We came out motivated with a lot of energy. Ryan Russell and Sam Hailey hit some big shots in the first quarter while I was out with two quick fouls. We kept the lead and defended great throughout the rest of the game.”
Hubbard knew Prep had the potential to pull the upset. Prep shocked the MAIS world when it defeated MRA 38-34 to end MRA’s 44-game winning streak against MAIS teams last season. Prep then defeated MRA behind Segrest’s career-high 30 points in last year’s 6A state title game, ending MRA’s seven-year run as state champions.
“This was definitely a game we’ve been wanting since last year,” Hubbard said. “The two upsets last year hurt, and we used that as fuel for this game.”
Wise, who is in his sixth season at Prep and has 14 years of coaching experience at Millsaps College, was proud of his team.
“We fought hard and gave great effort,” Wise said. “Luke is our leader and had a great shooting night. Cole Rutledge (a 6-5 senior forward who had a team-high seven rebounds) played hard and tough underneath the basket against two Division I prospects for MRA (6-6 senior Harrison Alexander and 6-5 junior Ashton Magee). You can’t simulate in practice what MRA has, and they have four great shooters – Hubbard, Alexander, Magee, and Hailey – and are tough to stop. We have several guys who have never played in tough high school conference games like these before. It’s a learning curve. They will learn from this experience. Our 10-game conference season is a grind, and we will try to stay even keel and bounce back Friday against Presbyterian Christian at home.”
Magee, who transferred from South Jones High this summer, had a game-high 12 rebounds and eight points. Russell added seven points.
“Tim always does a great job preparing for us and his teams always play us tough,” said Duease, the second winningest boys basketball coach in the country and Mississippi’s winningest coach. “We came out ready to play and when Hubb got in foul trouble, our other players stepped up and hit big shots. It was a good win for us and a good way to open up conference play.”
Both teams play home conference games Friday. Prep plays Presbyterian Christian (20-4 overall and 1-1 in conference play, including a 41-38 loss to Jackson Academy Tuesday) and MRA plays Parklane (10-7 and 0-2, including a 54-45 loss to Hartfield Academy Tuesday).