By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
With only one elimination night through the first week of the MHSAA basketball playoffs, there are still 16 teams remaining in Class 3A North as the North and South state tournaments get underway today.
Top two girls seeds host games today, top two boys on Tuesday. With so many teams still hanging around, there will be a share of blowout final scores.
Don’t expect one of those to come from Booneville High School.
The Blue Devils drew one of the state’s tougher matchups, hosting McClain in a North State opener on Tuesday night.
Contenders McClain and Velma Jackson were upset in their division tournament and both play on the road Tuesday, Velma at Holly Springs.
Booneville coach Michael Smith said his team hasn’t had much success as a third or fourth seed on the road, so it wasn’t tough to get his players ready for the division tournament last week. The Blue Devils beat Holly Springs in the title game on Friday.
His usually full gym of people will be there Tuesday, plus the team doesn’t have to drive far to get there.
“Our kids know the importance of playing at home, not necessarily because of technically a home court advantage, but the driving,” Smith said following Wednesday’s win against Ripley.
Eight teams play at host sites beginning Thursday, with the top two seeds from the North and South and advancing to the state tournament beginning March 1.
The Blue Devils are no strangers to tough games. In two straight state tournament appearances – the Blue Devils won it all two seasons ago – Booneville has taken a tough path both seasons.
In 2011, the Blue Devils knocked off Cleveland East Side and current LSU star Johnny O’Bryant in Corinth. Last season, they lost in the finals against Devonta Pollard and Kemper County. Pollard is now playing at Alabama.
McClain will ride nearly 300 miles to get to Booneville from Lexington.
“You drive three or four hours on a bus and you’re expected to play. It’s hard,” Smith said.
Nettleton and Baldwyn will both play double headers this week. Baldwyn will host O’Bannon tonight, beginning with the girls at 6 p.m. in Class 2A.
Nettleton will play two games at North Panola on Tuesday beginning at 6 p.m.