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JACKSON — Most teams would want to forget the kind of season the Booneville girls turned in last year, when the Lady Devils won just five games (including one by forfeit) and lost 14.

But as coach Michael Smith explained Wednesday after Booneville’s 45-30 win over Franklin County in the MHSAA 3A Semifinal at the Mississippi Coliseum, the 2022 Lady Devils have embraced it.

“We’re proud of where we are now compared to where we were a year ago, only winning five games,” Smith said. “We’ve come a long way.”

That may be an understatement.

Make no mistake, this is the same Booneville program that has played for seven championships in the last 10 years. Saturday’s 1 p.m. date with Noxubee County will make eight in 11 years.

But this year’s trip feels different, especially after last season’s struggles, even if the cast of characters in the lineup are mostly new faces.

On Wednesday, a couple of those new faces played huge roles for the Lady Devils (28-2). Taitiana Beene, who transferred in this season from Baldwyn, led all scorers with 14 points and provided four steals. Kylee Johnson, a freshman who transferred in from Ingomar, hit three huge three-pointers and scored 13 with a pair of steals.

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The Lady Devils trailed 22-20 at halftime, but out-scored Franklin County 13-5 in the third quarter to take command.

Ava Kathryn Smith hit a three-point basket from the corner to get things going in the third, then another on the next possession from the same spot that was ruled a two-pointer.

Johnson hit an uncontested 3-pointer from deep with 4:05 left in the third quarter to stretch the Booneville lead to five, 31-26, and another one minute into the fourth quarter that stretched it to seven, 36-29. Her layup with 2:45 left in the game gave Booneville an 11-point lead they never came close to giving up.

“I honestly didn’t know this team had only won four games last season when I transferred,” Johnson said, laughing. “But we met before the season and said ‘We have a chance to put together something special together here.’ And that’s what we did. I think a lot of it is about how much we trust each other. That’s a big part of how well we play together.”

The Blue Devils are a jump-shot shooting team, and that’s exactly what they did Wednesday. They made just six of 22 shots from the floor in the first half, but their work to get better looks in the second half paid off, and they hit 9-23 from the field, including four of eight from beyond the three-point arc.

Despite an obvious size disadvantage, the Lady Devils won the rebounding battle 30-23.

“We just have to be who we are and can’t try to be something we’re not,” Smith said. “We’ve got to work to get open looks and we’ve got to knock down shots. At this stage, you can’t try to change that.”

The loss dropped Franklin County to 24-5. Ja’sharreah Hunt led the Lady Bulldogs with 12 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter.