The Benton Panthers got off to their second consecutive 8-0 scoring start in defeating the Searcy Lions 59-39 at Benton Arena on Tuesday night. The Panthers also got off to an 8-0 start in their 68-43 win against Beebe in the first game of the year last week.
Senior Quinn Allen scored the first two buckets for the Panthers (2-0), his last coming on a steal and layup, and junior forward Josh Bowling scored the next four points for the eight-point lead. Bowling laid it in for a 12-3 lead at the 4:31 mark of the first quarter, but Searcy nailed a 3-pointer to get within six points. That was as close as the Lions would get the rest of the game as the Panthers were too big against a smaller team.
"They didn't have a whole lot of size," Benton Coach Chris Nail said. "We obviously hurt them inside.
We had an advantage on the glass tonight. We scored in the paint."
Benton held a 17-8 lead after one quarter, and leading by 10 points with with 4:23 left in the half, the Panthers went on a 9-0 run which included two free throws and a layup from Bowling, senior Rickey Gipson's layup and junior Blake Bowlin's 3-pointer for a 33-14 lead with 2:23 left. Bowling would score Benton's next two baskets and finished with 20 points in the first half on 8 of 10 shooting with the Panthers leading 37-20.
"People were setting good screens and passes for him," Nail said of the Panthers. "Everybody talks about the scoring, but those guys did an excellent job screening for him and getting the ball to him."
After Searcy scored the first three points of the second half, Benton responded with an 8-0 run with senior Zach Stuckey bookending the run with a rebound/put back and layup assisted by senior point guard Bryan Torres.
"The only negative I can come up with tonight is we didn't make very many perimeter shots (1 for 7 from the 3-point arc) like we usually do," Nail said. "Struggled from the perimeter a little bit, but it was a very unselfish night overall. That's a strength of this team is there's not a whole lot of ego out there."
Bowlin led all scorers with his 20 points, senior post player Graham Gardner (6-foot-9) added nine points and seven rebounds, Bowlin and Allen had eight points apiece and Stuckey and Gipson had six points each with Stuckey adding three rebounds and two assists and Gipson adding two steals. Torres didn't score, but did finish with seven assists against one turnover.
"Just really balanced," Nail said. "Rickey Gipson has played two really good games. He makes no mistakes, he guards well, when he shoots the ball it goes in. He's so under control out there."
The Panthers shot 54 percent for the game and is shooting 58 percent from the field on the young season.