By Brandon Speck
JACKSON – A year ago Saturday, Booneville’s girls basketball team was in the stands at Mississippi Coliseum, cheering the school’s boys in a state championship loss.
Little did they know, or expect, they’d return in 365 days – with their gear. It was a surprise and triumphant return thanks to a 43-32 win against Crystal Springs in the Class 3A state semifinals. Booneville (27-6) will play in Friday’s state championship.
“I couldn’t be prouder of them, regardless of what the outcome of the next game might be,” said Booneville coach Michael Smith, who had led the boys team to three straight title games, including a 2011 title.
He and the boys staff weren’t named girls coaches until October.
Booneville trailed one time on Saturday. That was 3-2 in a slow-moving first quarter that didn’t see a point until nearly four minutes in and ended 6-3. The Lady Devils led 16-11 at the half.
“I thought they did a great job defensively and I thought our kids did too,” Smith said, “especially with the gameplan of who we wanted to shoot the ball.”
It’s a young team helping lone senior Dashiyah Agnew to her first tournament appearance. Freshman Adallice Young scored 25 points, playing all 32 minutes, at one point outscoring Crystal Springs 12-11 after consecutive makes to open the third quarter.
Maria Lauderdale, another freshman, scored seven points, and had 12 rebounds.
Poor-shooting Crystal Springs (28-4) made only 13-of-52 shots, 3-of-13 free throws.
“We didn’t make layups. We didn’t make jump shots. We didn’t make free throws. It’s simple,” Crystal Springs coach Attarrius Norwood said. “We didn’t come to play.”
Agnew scored seven and Young was a board shy of a double-double. She hit a big 3 from the corner that did pre-damage control on a 4-0 Crystal Springs run. Lauderdale’s bomb pushed the third-quarter lead to 13.
Crystal Springs got a 3 from Tyra King that cut Booneville’s lead to eight to open the fourth, but the threat level never changed colors.
“They’ve done so much already,” Smith said. “They’re trying to change one game at a time the perception of girls basketball in their school.”