By Brandon Speck
The final season of the Mississippi High School Activities Association basketball playoffs as we know them could provide some surprises.
“I think almost every division is about like ours,” Booneville coach Michael Smith said.
Division tournaments begin this week, the first postseason step for teams aiming for a trip to March’s state tournament. With recent changes to the playoff format, next week’s North tournaments will be in their final go-around as sites, moving to games played at top seeds next season.
Third-seed Booneville’s Division 1-3A Tournament is scheduled to be played at Northeast CC, with a host of teams Smith says is capable of winning. North Pontotoc and Kossuth got the two byes by finishing atop the division.
Could Belmont be one of those postseason surprises?
The Cardinals went from a two-seed to a four-seed with Thursday’s home division loss to Booneville, but hit 11 3s in the loss. A sharp-shooting junior bunch led by Harrison Fancher and Luke Alexander on a hot night can spell disaster in put-out situations.
“We’ve hit more than that several times,” Belmont coach Guy Gardner said.
There are teams making quiet noise, like Calhoun City’s girls, finishing the regular season at 21-2. Elsewhere in 2A, Baldwyn is still picked as the boys favorite in 1-2A, but the Bearcats had their share of regular season fits against tournament opponents New Site and East Union, where the tournament begins Tuesday.
The boys side of the 1-4A tournament at Itawamba CC boasts ranked teams Corinth, Shannon and Pontotoc, but on the girls side, Shannon’s girls have been a surprise.
Quietly, so has Corinth – in the second set of division games, playing with Itawamba and Shannon.
“Shannon is figuring out how to win and our girls are vastly improved,” Corinth boys coach Keith Greene said.