By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
BOONEVILLE – The Beatles’ hit “Hard Day’s Night” blasted over the sound system Tuesday night following Booneville’s North Mississippi 3A Tournament opener against Charleston.
It was a hard night for the home team, the defending state champion Blue Devils, who held on to defeat the visiting Tigers, 59-57, and advance to Thursday’s quarterfinals.
Booneville took a 12-point lead, 57-45, with 2 minutes, 14 seconds remaining on a layup by Kenny Paul Geno, but could not land the knockout blow down the stretch.
“We survived, that’s all I can say,” Booneville coach Michael Smith said. “We got all nonchalant. We were very loose with the ball and thought the game was pretty much over.”
Booneville (28-3) will host the final three rounds of the tournament Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The Blue Devils’ opponent will be Velma Jackson, a 55-41 winner against Nettleton.
However, Smith’s main concern now is getting his team focused on playing better and returning to Jackson to defend their state title.
“I’m worried more about us getting better than who we play next,” he said. “We’ve got some things we’ve got to fix in one day and make sure we’re focused on what we have to do.”
Geno led the Blue Devils with 19 points, six coming in the final 3 minutes of the third quarter to erase a Charleston lead. His final field goal of the quarter, a short jumper, gave Booneville a 44-41 lead headed into the final 8 minutes.
His two late fourth-quarter baskets were crucial when Charleston rallied late.