By Robert Wilson
Photos by Brandon Jackson
Madison-Ridgeland Academy senior point guard and Ole Miss signee Josh Hubbard is on the verge of becoming the all-time leading scorer in Mississippi history.
But Friday night at MRA’s Duease Hall in Madison, it was a sophomore guard named Wiggy who came away as the game’s high scorer and more importantly with the win.
Wiggy Ball, a 6-foot-2 guard and son of Hartfield coach Bill Ball, scored a career-high 31 points – including the game-winning shot with 3 seconds to play – and led Hartfield to a 68-65 victory over MRA in the last conference game of the MAIS Class 6A regular season.
Hartfield, which finished as the No. 4 seed, improved to 20-8 overall and 4-6 in conference play and will play No. 5 seed Presbyterian Christian School, 24-10 overall and 3-7 in conference play, Tuesday in the first round of the 6A state tournament at Presbyterian Christian School in Hattiesburg. Hartfield and PCS split the two meetings this season, Hartfield winning 58-43 at PCS and PCS winning 51-35 Tuesday at Hartfield.
MRA, which finished as the No. 1 seed, dropped its first conference game, and fell to 30-7 overall and 9-1 in conference play and broke a 13-game winning streak. MRA had not lost to a MAIS team since to Clinton Christian in December. The Patriots get a first-round bye in the state tournament and play the winner of Hartfield and PCS Friday in the semifinals.
The 5-11 Hubbard – who hit a 3-pointer to tie the game with 23 seconds to play – finished with 29 points and now has 4,249 points. 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 – needs 23 points to break the Mississippi career scoring record of Robert Woodard, who scored 4,272 points for Houlka from 1981-1986. Hubbard passed Monta Ellis, who scored 4,167 points for Lanier at 2001-05, last week. Hubbard, who has started since the eighth grade, became the leading career scorer in MAIS history last season when he passed Ken Coghlan, who scored 3,168 points from 1977-1980 at East Rankin Academy. Hubbard was averaging 27.4 points per game this season going into Friday.
MRA defeated Hartfield 59-46 January 24 at Hartfield, but Friday it was Hartfield’s turn.
After Hubbard made his game-tying 3, Hartfield was able to get the ball down the court for Ball’s heroics.
“When Josh came down and hit the 3-pointer from the timeline, I knew we had around 12 seconds and I just tried to get a decent look at the goal,” Wiggy Ball said. “I was fortunate enough to get a great screen from (senior guard) Silas Clark and after I released it, I knew it was good.
“After our tough loss to PCS on Tuesday, we really made it a focus to come together as a team before the district tournament.”
“It was a great team effort tonight,” said Coach Ball, who won his 599th game in 22 seasons, including 529, two Overall titles and four state championships in 18 seasons at Jackson Academy. “It takes a special effort to knock off an elite team like MRA. We had been close in several early games in conference play to only see fourth quarter leads slip away, so for us to close this game out was huge.”
Ball’s last second shot kept Duease from adding to his legendary total of high school basketball wins. Duease has won 1,205 games in his 48 seasons, 41th at MRA and is the second winningest active boys basketball coach in the country, only trailing Gary McKnight of Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.). 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 1,797 combined games (1,202 boys and 592 girls), 40 state championships and a MAIS record 15 Overall titles (13 boys and two girls).
Austin Ratliff, a 6-6 junior forward and transfer from Terry High, had 19 points for Hartfield.
Junior guard Sam Hailey had 16 points for MRA.