Every high school basketball and football team has a rival. Every team has the school that they absolutely dislike because “hate” is too harsh. But, one thing most schools do not have is a rival that is less than 10 miles away. This can only be said about Benton and Bryant.
Year in and year out, both schools bring huge crowds during the basketball and football seasons. Known for the famous “Salt Bowl” at War Memorial Stadium to open the football season every year, both schools have been known to get pretty heated, both on the court and in the stands.
Last night was no different when both varsity basketball squads met for round one of the “Salt Bowl Shootout” at Benton Arena. Opening with the girls, both squads were on their toes from the get go. After a hot Benton start, the Lady Hornets quickly ended the Lady Panthers’ hopes of winning as Bryant took game one 42-36.
The Lady Panthers jumped out to an early 5-0 lead before Bryant finally got on the board with back-to-back free throws with 3:27 left in the first quarter. From there on, the Lady Hornets would not stop as they went on a 9-0 run of their own to end the first quarter at 9-5. The Lady Panthers could not get any shots to fall early in the second quarter and were also without one of their best players in Madison Brooks, who was on the bench in foul trouble.
The Lady Panthers started the second quarter scoring on a bucket by Brooks and followed up with a bucket by Kori Parker, who led the team in scoring with 13, to pull the score to 9-7 Lady Hornets. Both teams continued to exchange buckets throughout the period and ended the first half at a very low 15-12 score.
“I was pleased with holding them to only 15 at halftime,” head Benton coach Jerry Chumley said.
The Lady Hornets started the scoring in the second half with a bucket from Kiara Moore. But, the Lady Panthers stormed back with another 5-0 run, this time thanks to a 3-pointer by Bailey Gately and a bucket by Parker to knot things up at 17-17 with 5:32 left in the third. For the rest of the third quarter, both teams continued to trade buckets, keeping the score within one possession and ending the quarter with a 26-23 Lady Hornet advantage.
It was not until the fourth quarter that Bryant started to pull away, mainly because the Lady Panthers were forced to foul to stop the clock. Benton ended the third quarter on a very deep 3-pointer with a two seconds still on the clock, leaving Chumley asking, “What was that? Did you not look at the clock?”
Bryant jumped out to a 7-0 run to lead by ten at 33-23 to start the final period. A late surge by Benton pulled the game back to within five at 37-32 with 1:52 left in regulation. But, Bryant was too much to handle for Benton as the Lady Hornets went on to win by a final of 42-36.
Parker led the Lady Panthers with 13, followed by Gately at 10.
Bryant had three girls in double digits. Moore and Logan Davis both totaled 13 with Taneasha Rhode adding 10.
“We let Moore get to the lane too many times in the second half.” Chumley said. “When she got in there, good things happened for them. We didn’t do a good job of closing that lane, so she got some points there and got others involved when she got in there.”
One of the biggest keys in the loss for Benton was turnovers. Benton had 18 while only forcing 14 on the Lady Hornets.
“That is way too many turnovers against a really good basketball team,” Chumley said. “That is really too many against a bad team, but when you are playing a good team and you do that, it really puts you behind the 8-ball. We were fighting though. After that 5-0 run we were fighting to get back into it all night long and turnovers were a big part of that.”
The Lady Panthers will play again after the break when they welcome Lakeside in on Nov. 29 beginning with the junior high boys at 5 p.m.
“We did not win or lose the conference tonight,” Chumley said. “We just have to continue to work and get better.”
Bryant will take the floor next in the Crabtree Invitational on Dec.1.
Game two on the night was equally as exciting as the first with the boys action. The game started off very tight on the scoreboard with Bryant drawing first blood on a bucket by Brantley Cozart. Benton’s Blake Bowlin quickly answered the call with a huge 3-pointer to give Benton the early lead at 3-2 in the first. after a series of bucket trading, the score was still close at the end of one at 9-8 advantage Bryant.
The second quarter had a little bit of a different feel to it. Both teams finally settled down and started to play Benton-Bryant basketball.
With the score tied early in the second at 10-10, Bryant took a two point advantage on a Cozart bucket to put Bryant up 12-10. But, again, Benton answered with a huge 3-pointer, this time by Rickey Gipson to put the score at 13-12 in the second. With both team’s student sections screaming at each other, Benton took a four point advantage into the half at 24-20 with their side screaming, “We can’t hear you!” over and over again.
The second half was just the same as the first, very competitive and full of loud, screaming fans.
With the score knotted up at 26 with 5:40 left to play, Bryant took the driver’s seat for the rest of the game, only allowing Benton to pull within one and never taking back the lead. Benton pulled the score to 38-37 forcing Bryant to call timeout and regroup while the Benton fans were screaming at the tops of their lungs.
The noise and pressure did not faze Bryant as they were able to manage the clock very well and keep Benton from using the fast break in transition.
Having to foul to stop the clock allowed Bryant to get easy points and put the game away. The Hornets won 48-39 over Benton.
“I thought Bryant played very hard and very well,” head Benton boys coach Chris Nail said. “It was a disappointing loss for us and I give them credit. They played a good game.”
Fouls were a story line for the boys as well with their big man Graham Gardner on the bench early with three fouls.
“He got into foul trouble and didn’t score a lot but he will bounce back,” Nail said.
Gipson led all scorers with 16 for Benton. Nate Griffen added nine.
Gardner was held scoreless.
“We wanted to contain [Gardner] tonight and that is what we did,” head Bryant coach Mike Abrahamson said.
Zach Cambron and Quinton Motto led the Hornets with 10 points each.
It is the first time that the Bryant boys have won since 2005.
The Hornets with take their talents to Russellville for a tournament on Dec. 8 for their next game.