By Brandon Speck/Monroe Journal
JACKSON – Why should anyone expect anything less? The Booneville Blue Devils won again, this time 60-50 on Friday morning against defending Class 3A champion Forest in the MHSAA Class 3A state semifinals.
Booneville may have been off the radar all season to outsiders, but the Blue Devils have quietly amassed a 27-7 record and now sit in the state’s final two.
The Blue Devils will face Division 1-3A rival Corinth in the title game on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. It’s a rematch of the North championship game which Booneville won 70-68
Kenny Paul Geno had a game-high 24 points and 10 rebounds, six of the points on two momentum-swinging 3-pointers at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarters and Booneville didn’t have to sweat out the final minutes of this one.
In front of an estimated 2,000 inside Mississippi Coliseum, the Blue Devils trailed 29-24 at the half but coach Michael Smith had a recent reference to use in the locker room.
“’We were down eight at Corinth with two-and-a-half to go at their place and we won,’” Smith said he told his guys. “’Why in the world are we mad about being down five? Suck it up and let’s go make some plays.’”
Booneville made the bulk of the plays the rest of the way. After Forest (20-11) guard Datodrick Pinkston hit four straight of his team-high 23 and the Bearcats took a 33-28 lead, the Blue Devils went on a 11-2 run to end the quarter with a 39-25 lead, Geno’s 3 the final points.
Geno, who handed Booneville momentum with a first-half dunk as well, spotted up in the same spot 4 seconds into the fourth and nailed another one, this one on an assist from Darius Leach. Tre Welch found Geno on the first 3.
Welch had two first-quarter fouls, none the rest of the way, scoring 17 points. Guard Keldrick Lesley had 14.
“He’s young, but it was momentum swingers,” Smith said of the sophomore forward. He shoots that big rainbow. He’s the beneficiary of those guards breaking people down. Just drive and kick, not anything fancy. He made them pay when they had to help over and rotate.”