By Robert Wilson
Photos by Brandon Jackson

       Madison-Ridgeland Academy boys basketball coach Richard Duease – Mississippi’s career leader in basketball victories and the second winningest boys basketball coach in the country – has had quite a February.

       He celebrated his 71st birthday, won his 41st state championship, saw his star player, Josh Hubbard, become the all-time leading scorer in Mississippi history, and Friday night won his 1,800th career game.

       Duease can thank Hubbard and his teammates for getting No. 1,800 Friday night in a 51-41 first-round victory over Madison St. Joseph in the MAIS Overall Tournament at Mississippi College’s A.E. Wood Coliseum in Clinton.

       Class 6A state champion MRA improved to 33-7 and has won 16 of its last 17 games. The Patriots play Union Christian (La.), the third-place team from Class 2A and a 74-61 winner over Providence Classical Academy, Saturday at 7:15 p.m. in the quarterfinals.

       Madison St. Joe, the third-place team from Class 5A, finished 28-5 and won 20 of its last 23 games.

Duease, who turned 71 on Feb. 18, won his Mississippi record 1,800th game (1,208 boys and 592 girls). He won his 41st state title with a 38-33 victory over defending 6A state and Overall champion Jackson Prep last week for the Class 6A state championship. Duease has won a MAIS record 15 Overall titles (13 boys and two girls) in 48 seasons, the last 41 at MRA and is the second winningest active boys basketball coach in the country.

The 5-foot-11 Hubbard, a senior point guard and Ole Miss signee, became Mississippi’s all-time leading scorer last week, breaking a 37-year-old record held by Robert Woodard of Houlka (1981-86). Hubbard 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.

Hubbard had a game-high 17 points – 10 points below his scoring average of 27.6 points – Friday, but he scored enough to lead MRA to victory. He now has 4,315 points in his brilliant career, which started in the eighth grade.

       Hubbard was helped by 6-6 senior guard Harrison Alexander, who had 15 points and eight rebounds, and 5-10 junior guard Sam Hailey, who had 11 points.

       “We had not played St. Joe this season, and they have some good athletes, a nice team and are well coached,” Duease said. “We played well defensively and started making shots in the second half. We know Hubb is going to get his, but we need about 18 to 22 from Harrison and about 16-18 from everyone else to be successful.”

       St. Joe was led by senior guard Jadon Smith with 11 points and four assists and junior guard BJ Cooley with 10 points.

       “We thought from watching film we had good chance against them,” said St. Joe coach Michael Howell, who is in his sixth season at St. Joe. “We knew our guards would give them some trouble with penetrating and early on Jadon did a really good job getting in the lane and making plays in the paint. We just needed to limit their second chance points and transition opportunities. We did a good job until the third quarter when MRA got some transition opportunities.

       “Hubbard, Alexander and (6-6 sophomore forward and South Jones High transfer Ashton) Jones are super talented. We tried to take away driving lanes for Hubbard and make him take contested shots and tried to keep Alexander and Magee off the offensive glass. Our guys did a great job with the defensive game plan and make it tough on them to get good looks. We have asked Jan Williams to guard the other team’s best player all year and he’s done a great job for us. No doubt in my mind Williams is one of the best defenders in the state. His focus and discipline have been huge for us. He made it very difficult for Hubbard to get lanes to drive and our other guys helped him a lot. MRA adjusted in the third and set more ball screens for Hubbard, which did present us with some problems. Credit to MRA for making some big shots in the third quarter and going on a run. We missed some shots that we normally make that I thought could have kept us in it. Our guys played hard and gave us a chance.”

       Howell led St. Joe to a school record 28 wins. Smith averaged 19 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists per game this season.

       “We finished 12-0 in our district and at one point had an 18-game winning streak,” Howell said. “I’m really proud of this group for the season they have had.”