By Robert Wilson

Stephen Force has had several Division I players in his 20 seasons as Madison-Ridgeland Academy’s girls basketball coach, but he said he hasn’t had a player like Riley Hancock since Southern Miss signee Ashley Johnson played for him at Starkville Academy in the early 2000s.

Hancock, a 6-foot junior forward, made defending MAIS Overall Tournament champion Leake Academy a believer last week.

Hancock had 23 points and 13 rebounds to lead MRA to a 49-40 victory over Leake in the Kirk Academy Classic in Grenada for MRA’s 16th straight win.

For her outstanding performance, Hancock has been named the Performance Therapy/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Girls Basketball Player of the Week.

Hancock’s big game didn’t come against just an average team. It was only Leake’s second loss this season and just the third in the past 58 games. It was also the first loss in regulation Leake had in 44 games – the other loss this season was in overtime at Pillow. MRA’s win was also over the same team that it had lost to by 31 points at MRA on Oct. 26 in the Madison Madness Tournament in MRA’s second game of the season.

Photo Credit: Lonnie Kees

Hancock has scored 20 or more points in three of the last five games, including a 26-point,15-rebound performance in a win over MHSAA Class 6A Starkville. She also scored 14 points in one quarter against Hillcrest Christian earlier this season. Going into this week Hancock is averaging 14.8 points and 10 rebounds this season for 17-1 MRA.

“Riley has really improved since last year,” Force said. “The game has slowed down for her. Riley doesn’t feel rushed. She is taller and stronger. Riley can put the ball on the floor and improved her ability to score with her back to the basket. She is playing great defense and moving her feet more and not getting the cheap fouls and is staying in the game longer. When she is on the floor, we have a much better chance of winning.”

Hancock stayed on the floor against Leake and was the difference.

“Riley is a great player on both ends of the court,” Leake coach Amanda Hatch said. “She really works hard without the ball to get position inside. You can tell that her teammates want to find her down low, and when they do, she has great moves and finishing touch. Her awareness and presence on defense really disrupted our shots around the basket.”

Hancock is more than a basketball star. She was the MAIS Class 6A state champion in the triple jump last spring in the state meet. Hancock also was the goalkeeper and helped MRA to the MAIS Division I semifinals.

Hancock started as a sophomore in basketball and averaged nine points and six rebounds.

If Hancock does play Division I sports in college, she won’t be the first in her family. Her dad, former Tri-County Academy star Roger Hancock played defensive back, linebacker and returned kickoffs for Ole Miss in the late 1980s.