By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
It’s been a feel-good season for the Booneville High boys basketball team. At the same time, though, it’s been one filled of personal tragedies away from the court.
While the Blue Devils are riding high after winning the MHSAA Class 3A North Tournament, two of their key players have recently had to mourn the loss of loved ones due to accidents.
Within a half-hour after practice concluded on Feb. 8, Booneville coach Michael Smith received a phone call from his sophomore forward, Kenny Paul Geno.
The driver of the Ackerman High school bus hit head on by a tractor-trailer that afternoon was Geno’s cousin-in-law. Steven Moss was one of three killed in that horrific accident.
“We hadn’t been gone 30 minutes,” said Smith, “when he called me and said that’s my cousin.”
Moss’ wife and Geno’s relative, Abigail Clouse Moss, happened to be a classmate of Smith’s at New Site High School.
While it’s been two weeks since the fatal bus accident, it didn’t take long for another tragedy to strike a Blue Devils player’s family.
On Monday afternoon, Essence Welch, the cousin of senior guard Tre Welch, was killed in a two-vehicle accident not too far from Booneville High School. Peggy C. Geno, the driver of the other vehicle involved in Monday’s accident, is the great aunt of Tre Welch’s teammate, Kenny Paul Geno.
Smith said Peggy Geno is doing fine after the accident.
“I talked to him this morning. He was at school,” Smith said on the phone Tuesday about the possibility of Welch missing Friday’s semifinal game against Forest. “We’ll leave it up to him (whether he needs to take time off). We tell them (the players) to take care of their families first.
“Sometimes kids need to take time off. Sometimes it’s kind of a release to be there (with the team). … I believe he’s going to be there with the team. I think that’ll be his release, to get away from there (the loss of his cousin).”
Sure enough, Welch showed up at Tuesday afternoon’s practice, ready to go.
“He had as good as a practice as he’s had all year,” Smith said later Tuesday. “He was really focused out there and was a really good leader.”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572