State titles on line today in Jackson

By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – There will be four gold balls sitting on the scorer’s table today at the Mississippi Coliseum.
Six teams – Baldwyn, Belmont, Booneville, New Site, Ripley and Walnut – will get the opportunity to bring all four back home to Northeast Mississippi.
Two of the four girls teams playing will definitely bring gold home. The all-area matchups are: (2A) New Site vs. Walnut, (3A) Belmont vs. Ripley.
In the boys finals, its (2A) Baldwyn vs. S.V. Marshall and (3A) Booneville vs. Kemper County.
GIRLS REMATCHES
New Site, which has lost in the finals the last two seasons, is looking to win the program’s first state title.
“I don’t plan on leaving here without that gold ball,” Lady Royals senior guard Morgan Pearson said, following her team’s 55-45 semifinals win over Bassfield.
New Site’s favored because of its 80-36 win against Walnut in the North finals. However, the Lady Wildcats upset No. 1-ranked Taylorsville, 60-50, in the state semifinals.
“New Site hasn’t seen our best, yet,” Walnut senior Riley Quinn said.
Belmont and defending state champ Ripley could be the most evenly-matched game today. The Lady Cardinals beat the Lady Tigers in the regular season and in the Division 1-3A finals.
However, Ripley defeated Belmont 42-39 on the Cardinals’ home court in the North championship game.
“When it comes down to it, it’s going to be which team executes the most,” Belmont coach Chris Higginbottom said.
Belmont beat Ripley to win the 2010 state championship.
RIVALS GO FOR GOLD
Prentiss County rivals Baldwyn and Booneville are primed and ready to win it all.
Baldwyn’s guard-oriented lineup will look to take Marshall out of its game. The Bearcats lost to the Tigers, 66-61, in the North finals.
“Defensively, we’ve got to control the lane,” Baldwyn coach Jason McKay said. “We’ve got to out-rebound them. I’d like to think our guards can control the tempo offensively.”
Booneville, 3A’s defending champ, must find a way to control Kemper County’s McDonald’s All-American Devonta Pollard. On the flip side, Kemper must respect the Devils’ inside-outside threat Kenny Paul Geno, who had a double-double in the semifinals.
gene.phelps@journalinc.com