By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
BOONEVILLE – Booneville celebrated Saturday night like it was 2011. A year after surprising Class 3A with an unexpected North title, the Blue Devils grabbed their 2012 expectations by the horns.
In dominating fashion, Booneville again hoisted the North trophy, this one in front of an estimated home crowd of 1,750 fans after a 69-55 win against Aberdeen.
Last season, this run ended in a state championship. This ending is to be determined, back at the Mississippi Coliseum for the MHSAA state tournament.
“The kids played real loose and played about as well as we possibly could,” said Booneville coach Michael Smith. “On both ends of the floor, they really stepped up, played hard, competed and didn’t back down.”
Both punched tournament tickets Friday. Booneville will face Bailey Friday at 8 p.m. Aberdeen will see Kemper County Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
It was never really close. The Blue Devils built a 36-23 lead with an 8-0 run in the second and led by 14 at halftime.
Booneville (31-3) lost one from the championship team, guard Tre Welch. His pressured replacement Jake Hall had a game-high 16 points.
The two split meetings this season, Aberdeen (27-6) winning by nine in December.
“They came ready to play,” Aberdeen coach Roy Hazzle said. “They performed real well tonight. They were disciplined, well-coached and well-prepared.”
Second-chance points were aplenty for the Devils. Darius Leach took advantage of one opportunity with a layin for a 43-24 lead, the biggest of the first half.
The lead crossed 20 with Kenny Paul Geno’s three-point play in the fourth. Booneville answered any run Aberdeen tried to make.
“They can make a run and get all over you,” Smith said. “We really never looked like we were going to fold. They looked like they were in control the whole time. I’m really proud of them.”
Aberdeen didn’t have an answer for Keldrick Lesley in the first half, all his 15 coming then. Hall had 11 in the half. Booneville also got 13 points from Geno and 11 from Leach. Jeffery Riddle scored 12 points for Aberdeen.