By Brandon Speck/Monroe Journal
CORINTH – Corinth and Aberdeen drew all the pre-tournament headlines. Booneville stole the show.
The Blue Devils (22-6) overcame McDonald’s All-American Johnny O’Bryant and much-favored Cleveland East Side 63-51 Thursday night in the opener of the Class 3A North Mississippi Tournament.
“You can’t be a special team unless you do special things,” Booneville coach Michael Smith said. “You can’t be scared. You’ve got to go play.”
Booneville, which will face Marshall at 7:30 p.m. in tonight’s semifinals, took a 31-17 lead into halftime. Maintaining a double-digit lead as the fourth quarter wound down, Keldrick Lesley hit big shot after big shot and Kenny Paul Geno swatted a shot during the Trojans (24-3) comeback attempt.
LSU’s 6-foot-9 signee O’Bryant scored a game-high 28 points but it’s Booneville playing that’s on.
Tre Welch scored 23 points, Lesley had 20 and Geno had 10 in front of a raucous student section. Jamiason Hadley had 12 for East Side.
“Our guards did a fantastic job spreading the floor and finishing,” Smith said. “The post players did an unbelievable job rebounding.”
– Corinth 58, Holly Springs 50: Holly Springs (20-11) led by as many as nine points in the third quarter before the host Warriors (28-3) took control.
Corinth and Aberdeen will face off tonight at 6 p.m. in a much-anticipated battle.
Steven Polk scored 21 points to lead Corinth. It was his 3 that put Corinth ahead 34-33 with 2:58 left in the third. Jackson State-signee Deonta Herman then found Deione Weeks after a steal and the Warriors never looked back.
Herman had 12 for Corinth. Johnthan Bowens scored a game-high 27 for the Hawks.
“I knew it would be a good game,” said Corinth coach Keith Greene. “We gambled a little bit too much on defense in the first half.”
– Aberdeen 74, Palmer 55: Aberdeen (27-2) jumped ahead early, taking a 20-point first half lead on its way to a 23rd straight win.
Palmer (20-5) had no answer for Earnest Williams and Fred Ward in the post. Williams had 22 points. Ward had 11. Shedrick Fair had 13. Xavier Watson had 23 for Palmer.
“Our guys got out to a quick start. That’s what built our confidence,” Aberdeen coach Roy Hazzle said. “We just hope we continue stepping up on defense (against Corinth).”
– Marshall 78 Alcorn Central 51: Marshall improved to 23-6. Jordan White had 14 in the loss. Temarico Wilson had 21. Alcorn ends the season at 22-11.