By Brandon Speck/Monroe Journal
BOONEVILLE – In what many think may have been a preview of the Class 3A North finals, Aberdeen used a third-quarter surge to beat Booneville 76-67 Friday night in the finale of the Kiwanis Classic.
The Blue Devils, the 2011 state champions, led by 14 points on Keldrick Lesley’s third-quarter basket. Trailing 50-41, Jeffery Riddle connected on a pair of free throws, Aberdeen had four consecutive steals and Shedrick Fair hit a 3-pointer for a 51-50 lead on a 10-0 run.
“We had to put some pressure on them,” Aberdeen coach Roy Hazzle said. “That’s one of our trademarks when we’re behind or want to change the momentum of the game.”
Booneville ended the quarter with an alley oop to Kenny Paul Geno and led 55-51 to open the fourth.
A driving Lesley tied it again at 61 before Aaron McMillian connected on a 3-pointer and gave the Bulldogs (10-3) the lead for good.
“Once it got back nip-and-tuck, their confidence was back,” Smith said. “They’re just a great team, well coached. We knew it would be a close game. We just made critical mistakes.”
Lesley drove inside to get his team within 64-63 but Aberdeen again scored 10 straight, started by Jakeese Walker’s bucket.
Aberdeen hit 8 of 12 free throws in the final 2:22. Lesley scored a team-high 21 points for the Blue Devils (12-2). Darius Leach scored 20 and Geno 15.
Fair led Aberdeen with 26. Riddle had 13 and Walker 14.
Booneville led 37-28 at the half and by as many as 10 in the first half.
“We played the defending Class 3A champs and knew we had to come in here and have our minds focused on the game,” Hazzle said. “We think we’re never out of a ballgame and we think we never have enough lead.”
Geno ended the first quarter with a dunk for a 19-15 lead. Jakeese Walker pulled Aberdeen within 28-24 with a three-point play and after a steal, Shedrick Fair missed a chance to pull within two, missing a wide open layup.Lesley made a shot shy of the buzzer for the nine-point lead at the half.
“I thought until 3 minutes to go in the third, we controlled the tempo of the whole game,” Booneville coach Michael Smith said. “We kind of got lured into that up-and-down, which got them going.”