By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
RIPLEY – Michael Smith says his Booneville High club has tremendous respect for Ripley. On Tuesday night, however, it was Grant Gardner tipping his hat to the visiting Blue Devils after their second Division 1-3A meeting of the season.
Eighth-ranked Booneville (18-5, 7-2) defeated the ninth-ranked Tigers 72-62 to sweep the division series.
“They have so much respect for Ripley and Acie Vance and the kind of player he is,” said Smith, who was in no rush to leave the Ripley gym following the game. “They want to play against those kinds of kids.”
But after controlling the game – which started more than an hour earlier than its original start time due to expected inclement weather – from start to finish, Gardner had to give credit to the Blue Devils.
“Booneville did a great job offensively,” Gardner said after his team fell to 14-8 overall and 4-4 in the division. “They worked it, they were patient, they got good looks and to their credit, I thought the difference in the ballgame was their offensive rebounding.”
Booneville jumped out to a 19-11 lead before Ripley came back to make it a four-point game, 25-21, by the end of the first quarter.
The Blue Devils got their lead back up to seven, at 32-25, in the second quarter, but the Tigers were able to pull within one, 32-31, on an Acie Vance basket with 2:30 to play in the half. Keldrick Lesley (14 first-half points) finished the half with two more buckets to increase Booneville’s lead to 36-31.
Lesley finished with a team-high 24 points while Jordan Miller added 16, with half of those coming in the first quarter. Darius Leach scored six of his 10 points in the opening period.
Isaac Bails scored 10 of his 11 points in the first half.
“I thought Booneville came out playing really well,” Gardner said when asked if he felt his team came out flat due to the earlier start. “I would like to blame it (the bad start) on something else, but it was just too much Booneville there early.”
At the start of the second half, it was more of the same for the Blue Devils. They went on a 15-2 run to start the third quarter and led 56-43 entering the fourth.
“We didn’t take care of our defensive boards. I think they got four shots at it to start the third quarter and they finally scored,” Gardner said. “They did a great job of being aggressive on the offensive glass.”
Booneville survived an 8-2 Ripley run to start the final period, as Malik Pearson (13 points) scored and sharp-shooting Acie Vance (25 points) got going by knocking down two consecutive 3-pointers. The Blue Devils then took their 58-51 lead and built it into a 12-point margin before playing out the final three minutes.
“You’re on the edge of the seat every time he touches the ball,” Smith said of Vance. “At one point we were up 16 and he runs off nine in a row by himself, and they cut it to seven.
“I was proud of our kids for not panicking.”
Booneville sophomore forward Kenny Paul Geno scored all 11 of his points in the second half.
(G) Ripley 73, Booneville 17
The second-ranked Lady Tigers (17-2, 8-0 Division 1-3A) went off for 34 points in the second quarter to cruise to a division win at home.
Jayla Chills led Ripley with 15, while Becca Ruckes and Tosha Graham each had 10.
Jasmine Allen scored a team-high nine points for Booneville (4-18, 0-9).