By Brandon Speck
Icy roads have had their time in the news, but it’s time to get back on the court to finish off basketball’s regular season.
The big one won’t happen – a Top 10 boys rubber match between Corinth and Biggersville originally slated for Tuesday has been canceled. But there are still some big games, one between two girls teams considered the state’s best when Northeast Mississippi’s No. 1 Tupelo hosts Horn Lake.
There is another huge doubleheader tonight, opening with a girls game flying under the radar, Belmont at No. 7 Booneville in a 1-3A finale.
“The games are just very important,” Booneville coach Michael Smith said. “The girls can have a bye and automatically get in the North Half tournament. The guys could be put in a position to play somebody that beat us handedly, in a put-out game.”
If Booneville’s girls win, it locks up the top seed in next week’s division tournament. Belmont wins and it sets up a tie-breaking situation, where Kossuth is first, with the other two fighting tie-breakers for a division tournament bye.
Much like the matchup, Belmont’s Lady Cardinals are flying as low as they have in recent memory. But the nine losses on its 15-9 record are deceiving.
“We’ve had injuries and ACLs and flu and stomach viruses. I think there was like four practices where I had everybody,” Belmont coach Chris Higginbottom said.
Eight of Belmont’s losses have come to ranked teams Tupelo, Shannon and Itawamaba AHS, then-ranked Baldwyn, twice to 29-game-winner Red Bay and Alabama’s 3A and 4A champions.
“That’s sort of the way I wanted it, flying under the radar,” Higginbottom said. “I wanted us to finish the second half stronger. I thought we could be better by experience and also by getting everybody healthy.”
Everybody is healthy, Higginbottom says, but eight of 13 players on the roster are still playing high school games for the first season.
The Lady Cardinals have won 9 of 10, a division home loss against Kossuth. Katelyn Nunley in the post and guards Elisiah and Natasha Jones have been key contributors, as has sophomore guard Chloe Watson. Point guard Elisiah started the season on the shelf still recovering from a torn ACL.
“Everybody’s healthy,” Higginbottom said. “I haven’t talked to them today, though.”