By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
Booneville boys basketball coach Michael Smith described MHSAA’s diverse-in-style-of-play and ultra-competitive Division 1-3A the best: Outside of maybe Corinth, the five remaining division teams each have someone within the division they do not match up well with.
Take Ripley for starters. The Tigers (14-6, 4-3), ranked ninth in the Daily Journal’s Top 10 and residing in third place in the division, have had their fits with Belmont (12-7, 2-5).
The Cardinals defeated the Tigers 95-88 on Dec. 10 in Ripley.
“They’re a bad matchup for us,” said Ripley coach Grant Gardner, whose fretting tonight’s rematch in Belmont against 6-foot-5 Jon Harrison and Co. “We have to play really well to hang around with them.
“They put 95 points on us. They came over and embarrassed us.”
Meanwhile, Belmont lost at home to Alcorn Central (13-6, 3-3), on Tuesday night. On the other hand, the Golden Bears, who have now beaten the Cardinals twice this season, have lost to Ripley twice so far. Kossuth (0-6) is still looking for its first division win.
Smith’s Booneville squad – which will play Alcorn Central twice next week, in between a rematch of its Dec. 17 87-69 victory over Ripley – has been a pleasant surprise. The Blue Devils (15-5, 4-2) , second in Division 1-3A and ranked eighth in this week’s rankings, came within inches of defeating fourth-ranked and first-place Corinth (18-2, 6-0) on Tuesday night when Keldrick Lesley’s 3-pointer to win the game bounced off the front rim at the final buzzer.
“I think Booneville is so quick,” Gardner said, referring to Blue Devils guards Darius Leach, Tre Welch and Lesley. “They got three guards who are point-guard quick and can shoot the ball well. They’re a tough matchup to keep in front of and they do a very good job of penetrating.”
While Gardner may say that Corinth and Booneville “are both really dangerous coming out of our division,” people may say the same about his Tigers club, which also features three talented guards in Acie Vance, Malik Pearson and Ron Dixon. The Tigers have won nine of their last 10, with their lone loss coming to top-ranked and Class 6A Tupelo on Jan. 4.
“You can’t take anyone for granted in our division,” said Corinth coach Keith Greene.
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572