Road to basketball success: Highway 45

By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal

There is a dangerous stretch of highway in North Mississippi and it doesn’t involve deer barreling toward your vehicle.
In the 30 miles it takes to get from Corinth to Baldwyn, travelers go past the four most dangerous teams in North Mississippi boys basketball: Corinth (4A), Biggersville (1A), Booneville (3A) and Baldwyn (2A).
The four share more than connections to Highway 45. The four teams are back in their respective state championship games Thursday and Friday, sharing space in Jackson hotels, restaurants and the court at Mississippi Coliseum.
“We try to play a really hard schedule and play people on the road, people that are playoff caliber teams,” Booneville coach Michael Smith said following the Blue Devils’ 56-48 overtime win against Forest in Saturday’s semifinal.
“When we play Baldwyn, it’s more intense than this game we just played.”
The boys spend the regular season beating up on one another. Corinth, the Daily Journal’s No. 1-ranked team after the regular season, beat No. 3 Biggersville three times. Biggersville beat No. 4 Booneville. Booneville beat No. 5 Baldwyn twice and Baldwyn beat Biggersville.
Corinth and Booneville are both in the finals for the third straight season. Biggersville and Baldwyn are here for the second year in a row.
And that’s just the boys. Less than 15 miles from Booneville is New Site, whose Lady Royals are back in Jackson for the fifth straight season.
That’s two counties – Prentiss and Alcorn – with five teams in state championship games.
Two teams from the Hwy. 45 corridor have won gold balls in the past two seasons – Booneville beat Corinth for the 3A title two years ago and New Site won it all last season.
As for the support, the gyms back home are always packed. That may be why nerves aren’t much of a factor – if any – when the teams play inside the spacious “Big House” in Jackson.
“You play Corinth, Biggersville and Baldwyn year in and year out, you’re going to get better,” Smith said.
brandon.speck@journalinc.com