BOONEVILLE – Belmont’s zone stymied Booneville for a half.
However, the Lady Blue Devils’ man-to-man defense and half-court trap handcuffed Belmont the entire game in Wednesday's rematch of last season’s 3A state championship game.
Booneville, ranked No. 1 in Northeast Mississippi by the Daily Journal, defeated Belmont 53-23 after a slow start by both teams in their Division1-3A tournament semifinal game at Northeast Mississippi Community College.
“That was about as good a defensive effort that I’ve ever had a team play,” Booneville coach Michael Smith said. “They were locked in. We didn’t want to be in a grind-it-out game with them. I thought our defense got better the more we scored.”
Booneville (22-1) will play 3A newcomer New Site (24-5) at 7 p.m. Friday in the championship game. The Lady Royals defeated Alcorn Central 76-38 in the late game. The Lady Cardinals (18-12) play the Lady Bears in the consolation game.
Belmont’s 1-3-1 zone puzzled the Lady Devils, who led 7-4 after one quarter. Booneville opened the second quarter with an 8-0 run, kickstarted by Coro Geno’s steal and layup, and built a 23-10 halftime lead.
“I thought we did pretty well defensively, we just couldn’t score,” said Belmont coach Chris Higginbottom, who returned only two players from the state title team. One of those, Chloe Watson, has been sidelined with a knee injury.
Maria Lauderdale and Maleeka Patterson had two 3-pointers apiece as the Lady Devils outscored Belmont 23-3 in the third quarter to take command.
“The third quarter killed us,” Higginbottom said. “That was the turning point.”
Adallice Young led Booneville with 13 points while Claire Maroon paced Belmont with 14.
(B) New Site 56, Alcorn Central 45: Ashton Johnson connected on four 3-pointers and scored a game-high 23 points to lead the Royals into Friday’s finals against Kossuth.
(B) Kossuth 59, Booneville 57: Jonah Smith scored 16 points and Dylan Mercer 14 to lead the Aggies.
(G) New Site 76, Alcorn Central 38: Jordyn Clark scored 19 points and Grace Marie Pharr added 14 to pace the Lady Royals.