By Robert Wilson

       MADISON – Madison-Ridgeland Academy celebrated long time basketball coach Richard Duease’s 1,200th boys victory and star senior point guard Josh Hubbard’s 4,000th career point Friday night by giving them each balls with their respective achievement Friday night prior to the game with Jackson Prep.

       But Prep coach Tim Wise, his ball-control style, and his Patriots almost spoiled the mood here at MRA’s Duease Hall gym.

The Madison-Ridgeland Academy Patriots basketball team hosted the Jackson Prep Patriots at MRA, in Madison, Miss., on Friday, January, 27, 2023.

       Prep was on the verge of pulling the upset, leading by one point with 2 minutes to play before Hubbard’s teammates, junior guard Sam Hailey and senior guard Harrison Alexander, made back-to-back 3-pointers and Hubbard added two free throws to give MRA a hard-earned, 48-43 victory in a key MAIS Class 6A conference game before a loud crowd of an estimated 1,200.

       MRA improved to 27-6 overall and 6-0 in league play. Prep, the defending 6A and Overall Tournament champions, dropped to 21-5 overall and 5-2 in league play, both losses to MRA.

       Hubbard finished with a game-high 20 points. The 5-foot-11 Ole Miss signee now has 4,129 points, third in Mississippi history behind Robert Woodard of Houlka (4,274 from 1981-86) and Monta Ellis of Lanier (4,167 from 2001-05). Hubbard – who is rated as one of the Top 20 point guards in the country in the Class of 2023 by ESPN – has a possible 10 more games to play, four in the regular season, two in the 6A state tournament and four in the Overall if MRA makes to the championship game. Hubbard could become the all-time career leader if continues his scoring average of 27.6 this season going into Friday’s game.
       Duease won his 1,202nd game Friday night in his 48th season, 41th at MRA. He is the second winningest active boys basketball coach in the country, only trailing Gary McKnight of Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) who has 1,224 entering Friday night. Duease ranks fifth all-time in boys basketball wins, trailing Robert Hughes of Dunbar High in Fort Worth (1,333), Morgan Wooten of DeMatha High in Hyattsville, Md., (1,274) and Steve Smith of Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va. (1,229) and McKnight.

       Duease has won a Mississippi record 1,794 combined games (1,202 boys and 592 girls), 40 state championships and a MAIS record 15 Overall titles (13 boys and two girls).

The Madison-Ridgeland Academy Patriots basketball team hosted the Jackson Prep Patriots at MRA, in Madison, Miss., on Friday, January, 27, 2023.

       But Wise – last year’s PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Coach of the Year – played MRA close once again and almost won like he did last year when 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 Luke Segrest’s career-high 30 points in last year’s 6A state title game, ending MRA’s seven-year run as state champions.

       Friday night’s game was tight all the way to the end. Prep led 11-10 after one quarter, 19-17 at half and MRA led 30-27 after three quarters. MRA led 38-32 midway through the fourth quarter before Prep came storming back and took a 41-40 lead on sophomore guard EJ Vaughn’s layup with 2 minutes, 10 seconds to play. Hailey hit a 3-pointer – his first points of the game – with 1:30 to play for a 43-41 MRA lead, and Alexander connected on a 3-pointer with 1 minute to play to push the MRA lead to 46-41. Segrest, a senior guard who scored a team-high 11 points, cut the lead to 48-43 with 11 seconds to play. Segrest had been a thorn in MRA’s side during his career, with his 30-point game last year against MRA and 24 in this year’s first meeting, a 49-35 loss at Prep.

       “Prep likes to slow the game down and they did a good job in the first half,” Duease said. “We came out in the second half and did a better job of guarding them. (Junior guard) Matthew (Latham) hit a big 3 (early in the fourth quarter), Sam hit a 3 and Harrison’s 3 was the dagger. Those guys can hit big shots in big games, and they did tonight. Josh played well tonight too.”

       “We started off slow and Prep did great in controlling the game until late in the fourth quarter,” 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 made a comeback and took advantage of the lead.”

Wise, who is in his sixth season at Prep and has 14 years of coaching experience at Millsaps College, was proud of his team.

       “Our guys executed, and we did what we had planned and discussed over the past two and half days,” Wise said. “We only had three turnovers. We had some guys hit some clutch shots in the first half. We battled them toe for toe. Hubbard is such a special player; we just try to limit his shots. We want to make the other guys on their team beat us and they did tonight.”

       MRA’s 6-5 sophomore forward Ashton Magee, a transfer from South Jones High, had nine points and six rebounds. Alexander had seven points.

       Vaughn had eight points, sophomore guard Ben Segrest (Luke’s brother) had seven points and 6-4 junior forward Konnor Griffin – the No. 1 rated baseball player in the country in the Class of 2024 – had six points and a game-high 10 rebounds.