By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
BOONEVILLE – A third straight trip to the MHSAA state tournament won’t be easy for the Booneville Blue Devils, but the first step is complete.
Top-seed Booneville, the Journal’s No. 4 team, overcame a seven-point deficit in the third quarter to beat McClain 70-58 Tuesday night in the opening round of the Class 3A North Mississippi tournament.
“We knew they were good, not a typical 1 (seed)versus 4, with several different kids who can score,” Booneville coach Michael Smith said.
In his final home game, Booneville senior Kenny Paul Geno took an alley-oop dunk from Jack Nichols on Booneville’s first play and finished with 33 points and 20 rebounds.
As Booneville (25-4) likes it though, it was a team thing. Daryl Barefield came in for defense and scored seven points in the fourth. His fast break layup gave the Blue Devils a 62-56 lead. Geno hit three big 3s, two to cut the 40-33 lead to one point and Jordan Miller hit a pair of free throws after Robert Jordan’s jumper cut Booneville’s lead to a point in the fourth.
Jack Nichols added 11 for Booneville.
“I thought (the 3s) took a lot of the pressure off our team. We needed a break and I thought he kind of made us a break or two there,” Smith said. “We didn’t play very well but I thought they had everything to do with that. They hit some unbelievable shots.”
Rotavious Thurmond had 24, Jordan 13 and Johnathan Fisher 10 for the Mustangs (20-6).
Booneville trailed by five at the break. The Blue Devils’ road continues to Mooreville, where it will face the host No. 2 Troopers for the third time this season in the North quarterfinals. The teams split regular season meetings.
“In the second half, we basically tried to stop Geno from getting offensive putbacks and running the floor,” McClain coach Eleazarus Greenleaf said. “He can shoot it. He crashes the boards hard. He’s a hard-working player.”