By NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Both teams may have flown under the Class 3A radar during the regular season, but it’s Booneville and Corinth from unheralded Division 1-3A now matched up for the March 3 MHSAA Class 3A state championship game.
Prior to both winning semifinal games Friday at Mississippi Coliseum, the Blue Devils and Warriors stayed at the same hotel Thursday night. The opposing coaches, friends Michael Smith and Keith Greene, teamed up to make sure their players went to bed.
“Coach Greene and I stayed up until about 1 o’clock making sure they all stayed in their room,” Booneville coach Smith laughed. “I want to win. Don’t get me wrong. But I’ll be happy for those kids. I know how hard they work.”
Greene said it was just a coincidence the teams stayed in the same hotel. Even back home the two teams are merely 15 miles apart. Both have been head coaches at the schools for six years.
“We talk almost every day about this and that,” Greene said of Smith, “and not just all about basketball. We’re friends, but again, we’ve got something to go for and he does too.”
Ripley’s India Howard and Belmont’s Kelsie Montgomery both know what it is like to tear both ACLs — one one year and then the other the following season.
Finally healthy this season, the two MHSAA Division 1-3A standout players played significant roles in helping their teams advance to the state semifinals.
“That was harder than the first one,” Howard said about tearing her left ACL in 2010, “because the girls were good and I helped the team more my junior year.”
Half and half
Since their Renasant Bank Relay For Life Lady Challenge game against Lafayette High on Jan. 29, the Ripley High Lady Tigers have worn one pink shoelace and one black shoelace on their kicks.
Shunquest Howell “has had a grandmother that has had breast cancer in the past,” said Ripley girls basketball coach Katie Bates, “and she’s kind of wanted to do it before, but we never really did it. … That’s one reason why she’s always wanted to do it, is for her grandmother.”
Sultan of swat
Kristen Dixon looked like former Mississippi State big man Jarvis Varnado in the lane during Friday’s MHSAA Class 3A semifinal.
The skinny 5-foot-11 Choctaw Central center blocked eight of Belmont’s shots.
“Coach prepared us and told us she was going to block shots,” said Lady Cardinals senior player Domonique Allen, who had three shots rejected by Dixon.
Prior to Friday’s game, Dixon had been averaging 6.8 blocks per game.
- H.W. Byers junior guard Alexis Hardaway continues to work her way back after missing half of the season with a knee injury.
She scored 17 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and collected a steal in the team’s semifinal win against Bogue Chitto.
“She’s giving us everything she has; she’s not holding back,” teammate Kourtney Coleman said. “We were able to pick up the slack when she was gone, but we are a much better team with her.”