By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
Booneville’s run started two years ago in Corinth’s gym. While much of the crowd was already talking about the next night’s Aberdeen-Corinth matchup, the Blue Devils were beating tournament favorite Cleveland East Side.
“In any kind of run, you have to have a statement game or win. You look different as a program when you get to Jackson,” Booneville coach Michael Smith said. “It was a big thing for our kids to all of a sudden believe they could play with those teams, instead of hoping they could.”
Then the Devils beat bigger S.V. Marshall and Corinth to win the North that season.
Then came state tournament wins against Forest and Corinth and a gold ball back to Booneville.
After losing in the championship game last season, Booneville (27-5) is headed back to Jackson for the third straight season in the MHSAA Class 3A state semifinals.
“(It’s) their desire to win and we have really good people,” Smith said. “And I think you win with character. They have a blueprint to winning, fundamentally sound and being very unselfish. They’ve bought into that and the (eight) seniors have been really, really good at making sure everybody understood that.”
The Journal’s No. 4 Blue Devils, the North’s second seed will again face South No. 1 Forest at 8 p.m. Saturday inside Jackson’s Mississippi Coliseum.
Forest beat Pass Christian to win 4A South. Six-foot-9 post player LeDerrick Scott averaged 20 points in four South tournament wins for the Bearcats.
Booneville senior Kenny Paul Geno is one of the state’s most recruited players and one of the biggest threats – inside and outside – to opposing defenses, but Smith pushes his team as a balanced attack. Junior guard Jack Nichols has emerged as an offensive focus as well.
“Nichols is great flashing in that middle and he’s strong,” Mooreville coach Jeff Tally said. “Then (Antonio) Crump out of the corner got hot on us.”