Now the Booneville Lady Devils are trying to elbow their way into the conversation.
Not panicking when down by six points late in the fourth quarter, the Lady Devils claimed a 55-54 victory Tuesday over defending Class 3A state champion Belmont.
“This was a big game because of what it means to us,” Booneville head coach Bart Greenhaw said. “No question we’ve fought the last couple of years getting over the intimidation of playing Ripley and Belmont.
“Tonight, we kept our composure, and made a little run at the end.”
The significance of this contest for Booneville – locking up the No. 2 seed in 1-3A, which also carries an automatic berth in the 3A North Mississippi Tournament.
And it took the Lady Devils (14-9, 3-2) not panicking while looking up at a 53-47 Belmont lead with 2 minutes, 22 seconds to play following free throws by Kela Powell.
Crucial 3-pointers by Cora Geno, and then Erica Whitten with 1:11 to play pulled Booneville within 54-53. Then a pair of free throws by Whitten pushed the Lady Devils into the lead with 1:02 remaining.
Booneville then survived posessions by Belmont (16-8, 2-2) in the closing seconds.
“We didn’t finish the game,” Belmont coach Chris Higginbottom said. “Defensively, we didn’t do the job, we got beat on defense and rebounding.”
Jasmine Allen paced Booneville with 14 points, while Powell scored 17 for Belmont.
Belmont led 34-29 at the half.
(B) Booneville 80, Belmont 57: Kenny Paul Geno scored 16 to pace the Blue Devils (21-4, 5-0), while Trent Jones hit 17 for Belmont.
Booneville led 42-27 at the half.