LEAKE’S GYM MYSTIQUE, DEFENSE, ACCURATE 3-POINT SHOOTING DEFEAT PREVIOUSLY UNDEFEATED JACKSON PREP GIRLS, EXTEND HOME WINNING STREAK TO 59 GAMES – By Robert Wilson

Photography by Robert Smith

Written by Robert Wilson

The mystery of Joe Shepherd’s Leake Academy gym with dozens of state championship banners hanging from both ends of the field and the feel of Hoosiers with fans screaming for the home team on both sides of the field can be intimidating.

In addition, the Leake girls who come out with fierce defense, intense determination and accurate shooting can overwhelm even the best team.

Jackson Preb entered the small Madden community on Saturday afternoon with a record 15-0 in hopes of ending Lake’s four-year winning streak at home. It did not. Not even close.

Defending MAIS overall, Champion Leake scored his first eight points in game one, and never lags behind, leading up to 27 points and defeating Prep 61-37 to win 59y consecutive home match.

Leake improved to 15-1 and won 41St Time in the last 42 games. Leake had broken his winning streak in 39 games last week by Pillow in Greenwood and before that unbeaten since a 59-49 decision at Prep last December. Leake has not lost at home since November 16, 2017 to Kirk. Prep dropped to 15-1 and lost for the first time since Leake’s 72-60 decision in an aggregate quarter-final to end his season.

Photography by Robert Smith

“We came out in great shape,” said Leake coach Amanda Hatch. “For us, the focus is always on defense. And when our defense clicks, we can turn that into a streaming attack. Great defensive rebounding lets us move on and Miriam (Prince) and the others are really good at it and you find the open players. Good defensive stops early on gave us easier chances to score. We got some good looks early on.

“This gym is such a fun environment. People go out, even on a cold, rainy Saturday. The kids come out and support us. We have a lot of energy here for games like this and I am grateful for all the support.”

Hatch improved her record to 262-29, a 90 percent win percentage, in eight seasons. Hatch replaced Doyle Wolverton, the winning girls’ basketball coach in Mississippi State history, who won 1,249 games from 1975-2014, and now Lake Stadium is named after him.

Leake made 11 of 25 three-pointers, by 44 percent, and has multiple three-pointers from four different players. Prince, junior goalkeeper and scorer for Leakey, scored 21 points and four three-pointers. Junior Emery Warren scored 15 points, three throws, and junior Morgan Freney had 11 points, and two 3-pointers. Junior Grace Maxi made two 3-pointers.

Prep scorer, first point guard and Alabama-Huntsville spotter Andy Flatgard has averaged 18 points per game and led Mississippi with 40 three-pointers this season. Flatgard scored 4 points in the first quarter and none in the second and third quarters. Flatgard scored 12 in the fourth quarter to finish with a score of 16, but Leake comfortably advanced in the fourth. Leake grabbed Flatgard without pointer 3.

“The plan on Flatguard was to allow Mary to vigorously deny her throughout the court,” Hatch said. “When she gave the ball, try not to let her take it back. We would have trapped her on the ball screens, we would hedge any other screens for her. It was a good team effort on her. We even turned her on and when we made the substitution the other girls had better guard her the same way. We did that Plan very well.”

“Andie’s playing is always like a challenge. She’s a skilled player and a shooter,” Prince said. “My teammates were on fire tonight and Coach Hatch always got us ready to defend. Playing at home, especially against prep, makes it feel like a playoff.”

After the 8-0 start, Leakey led 13-6 after one quarter, 27-17 in the inning and 43-21 after three quarters. Prep got a 6 in the second quarter but couldn’t get any close. Leake scored the first 8 points of the third quarter to expand the lead to 16 and Prep never recovered. Leakey’s biggest advance was 27 points in the fourth quarter.

Photography by Robert Smith

“I thought Leake was great tonight, as he usually is,” said prep coach Michael McNally. “Defensively, they did a good job expanding our range and creating disruption. I thought we had some decent looks but we didn’t shoot the ball tonight. The 3-point streak was the difference. They were over 30 points and that was the story of the match. You can’t go. To Leake and going 1-16 from behind the arc and expecting to win. But give Leake credit for that. Their effort and intensity were above our level tonight. We have a good squad and I’m sure we will respond to tonight’s adversity.”

Prep has been chasing history, trying to become the first undefeated girls’ team since Starkville Academy, coached by Glenn Schmidt, set a 43-0 record in the 2013-14 season. One other MAIS girls’ team—the Brookhaven Academy team coached by Barry Gray—has been undefeated since Hatch was young and Leake went 46-0 in the 1998-99 season. Brookhaven Academy went 43-0 in the 2003-04 season.

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