PELAHATCHIE – It wasn’t pretty, but Madison-Ridgeland Academy coach Richard Duease will take it.
His MRA squad held off scrappy Pillow Academy 43-36 in the first round of the MAIS Academy AAA state tournament at East Rankin on Wednesday afternoon.
The Patriots (26-11), ranked No. 2 in Academy AAA, will face fourth-ranked Hillcrest Christian on Friday night in the semifinals. MRA and Hillcrest split their two games in the regular season.
“We were just very fortunate to come away with a win in this one and keep on going,” Duease said. “(Pillow) coach (Russ Whiteside) did a great job of getting his team prepared for us. They defended us very well and played very hard.”
MRA only managed one field goal in the fourth quarter.
Clint Moses poured in a game-high 21 points for the Patriots, inclduing 12 points in the first half. Devin Gilmore added 10 points
“In the first half, I missed a couple of 3-pointers to start off and then I decided to start driving to the basket” said Moses, who is receiving interest from Southern Miss, Mississippi State, TCU and Southeastern Louisiana. “Pillow gave us all they had and they were making shots early. We were not, but in the second half, we stepped up and that is what you need to do at this point in the year.”
Up 36-33 with four minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Pillow had an opportunity to come back but missed a three-point attempt and went 0-for-4 from the free throw line.
Moses and Trea Futral each made their free throw attempts to put the game away.
“Free throws is something we have struggled with down the stretch and glad we were able to make those in the fourth quarter,” Futral said. “We practice free throws every day and from here on out they will become more important.”
Dillon Ussery had nine points to lead Pillow Academy (13-14).
“Our kids did a good job of controlling the tempo of the game. We had opportunities to tie the game and didn’t,” Whiteside said. “Give credit to MRA for getting stops when they needed to get stops.”
Contact Brandon Shields, call (601) 961-7248 or email@example.com. Follow @BShields_CL on Twitter.