By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Booneville needed one more shot and didn’t get it in time Friday at Mississippi Coliseum.
The Blue Devils fell a point short in a 45-44 loss to Velma Jackson and its slowed pace in the Class 3A state championship game.
Booneville (28-6) took a 33-26 lead on Jack Nichols’ alley oop to Kenny Paul Geno at the end of the third quarter but the Falcons then reeled off eight straight points to open the fourth.
“I thought we let them off the ropes,” Booneville coach Michael Smith said.
The Blue Devils allowed only one point in the third. In the fourth, Justin Washington hit a 3 from the corner and Kendarius Smith forced one of Booneville’s 20 turnovers to covert a 3-point play.
Moses Greenwood put Velma ahead a point but Nichols raced to the other end to give the lead back to Booneville.
The Blue Devils trailed by four when Geno bounced in a 3-pointer with 32.2 seconds left. With 15.5 left, Geno’s three nearly bounced in before bouncing off. Greenwood made a free throw and Nichols’ 3 at the buzzer went in but too late.
A handful of seconds ran off the clock more than once in the game, the last time with 5.7 seconds left. The clock was running before Nichols touched the ball.
“I didn’t think we got a break,” Smith said. “We didn’t make any breaks for ourselves, but we definitely didn’t get any. That stuff bothers you but at the same time, we missed enough opportunities to have a chance to win.”
Geno, one of the state’s top recruits, scored 11 points and had eight rebounds. Nichols finished with 18.
Velma’s postgame celebration may get as much focus as its championship. Falcons fans taunted Booneville’s student section as the game ended and one player taunted Booneville players.
“All of us are close,” Smith said. “You love them like kids. You get into a bond with them. I think that’s why we’ve been pretty good, is that our kids are all close, close to our family, to each other.”