By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Tre Welch didn’t get to touch Booneville’s gold ball from the Blue Devils’ 1963 state championship win.
Instead, the senior guard was told by his coach, Michael Smith, that he needed to win one of his own.
“He told me, ‘This one’s not your’s, you’ve got to earn it,'” Welch said Thursday after helping lead Booneville to a 60-55 victory over Corinth in the MHSAA Class 3A state championship game. “He wouldn’t let me touch it.”
Smith sent his team through a mock postgame state championship awards ceremony following a practice this week. He wanted his players to plan how they wanted the postgame activity to go.
The team decided to let its two seniors – Welch and Braxton Crockett – accept the gold ball. However, that plan failed.
“We thought the two seniors would go, but everybody went out there,” Welch said, then laughed. “Everybody was too overjoyed.”
Team news conference
– Booneville continued its team concept even in the postgame news conference.
Usually, a coach and a couple of players from each participating team are brought to an interview room. Smith brought all 20 of players and a handful of staffers.
“We made a commitment to bring all 20 in here,” the coach said. “We’re a family; it’s the reason we’re here – because of their commitment to unselfishness.
“It speaks volumes of who we are.”
Third choice a charm
– Katie Bates was a volunteer assistant basketball coach five years ago for Ripley High School.
“I just loved basketball,” said the Lady Tigers’ coach, who is a former Pine Grove and Northeast Mississippi Community College player. “This job happened for me by chance. I was an assistant coach, who was third in line for the job.”
The two candidates ahead of her in 2007, turned the job down.
“I just want to say how thankful I am,” she said. “This group of girls was 10-17 as freshmen. We only won one game after Christmas holidays. They’ve really come a long way.”
So has their coach.
India survives season
– Ripley senior guard India Howard saw her sophomore and junior seasons end with torn ACLs. This year she made it from start to finish.
“I’m very excited,” she said, sitting in front of the team’s state championship gold ball. “I didn’t think I’d ever play again. I love basketball so much.
“Last year I was on crutches and didn’t get to play (in the championship game loss to Belmont). I think I cried more than anybody.”
Howard played 30 minutes and scored eight points in the Tigers’ championship win against Choctaw Central.
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593 or firstname.lastname@example.org.