Belmont, Booneville bring the big guns to 3A girls final

basketball_icon_greenBy Gene Phelps

Daily Journal

JACKSON – Belmont and Booneville both bring big guns into today’s Class 3A championship game in the MHSAA State Tournament.

The Lady Cardinals (22-10) have a double-barrel weapon with the Jones sisters – guards Natasha, a senior, and Elisiah, a junior. Both players average 14 points per game.

In Belmont’s 72-59 win against Hazlehurst in the semifinals, Elisha scored 25 points while Natasha added 19.

“They are a very good one-two punch,” Belmont coach Chris Higginbottom said. “They both can play the point or the wing. Both are good defenders. Both have overcome injuries.”

Natasha suffered a torn ACL as a freshman while Elisiah suffered an ACL tear in January of her sophomore season.

The Lady Blue Devils (27-6) will counter with their top shooter, freshman guard Adallice Young. The rookie averages 17.5 points per game.

In Booneville’s 43-32 win against Crystal Springs in the semifinals, she scored a game-high 25 points and added nine rebounds.

“She’s a leader. We say she’s an alpha dog,” Booneville coach Michael Smith said. “Not many freshmen can take control of a team and be a leader like she has.

“She’s a special kid. She could be one of the better players to come through here.”

Familiar foes

Today’s game, scheduled for a 1 p.m. tipoff at the Mississippi Coliseum, will be the fourth meeting between these two Division 1-3A foes.

Booneville holds a 2-1 edge in the series owning 65-51 and 50-46 wins, the latter in the North state finals.

Belmont’s 47-46 victory came in the division tournament.

Smith’s Lady Blue Devils are newcomers to the Big House floor and it showed early in the team’s game against Crystal Springs.

“It’s big deal to play down here. We had to fight though the jitters and the nerves,” Smith said. “If you’re good enough defensively, you can overcome that. I thought we did a great job.”

Booneville outrebounded Crystal Springs 40-30, collecting nine steals and forced 15 turnovers.

Maria Lauderdale, a freshman guard, was dominating on the boards. She grabbed 12 rebounds.

Belmont’s won two of its eight state championships under Higginbottom. His teams won in 2010 and ’12. But this is a relatively new team, won that won 17 of its last 19 games after a 5-8 start.

“We made 22 of 26 free throws (against Hazlehurst),” he said. “I’m proud of our girls for that. We did that in the Big House, with the season on the line and a chance to go play for a state championship.”

gene.phelps@journalinc.com

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Girls 3A State Tournament

Who: Belmont (22-10) vs. Booneville (27-6)

What: State Championship

When: 1 p.m., today

Where: Mississippi Coliseum, Jackson

TOP PLAYERS

Belmont: F Katelyn Nunley (15 ppg), G Elisiah Jones (14 ppg), G Natasha Jones (14 ppg), G Chole Watson, F Breanna Lynch, F Carly Ramsey, G Alivia Rooker.

Booneville: G Adallice Young (17.5 ppg), G Dashiyah Agnew (11.4 ppg), G Kabrina Hill, G Maria Lauderdale, F Cora Geno, F Maleeka Patterson.