BENTON – The Benton Lady Panthers’ basketball team had one of the best years in school history during the 2011-12 season. Coming out of the 6A South conference, the Lady Panthers had a .500 record, sitting at 6-6 on Dec. 17 and then went on a little run.
Benton went on a 15-game winning streak, including winning the conference on Senior Night against second-place Texarkana 42-26 to improve to 13-0 in conference. It was the Lady Panthers’ first conference championship in 19 years.
Next up was the El Dorado Lady Wildcats. The Lady Panthers destroyed the Lady Wildcats 45-19 on Jan. 20 in Benton, but the winning streak would come to an end the last conference game of the year. El Dorado defeated Benton 43-39 in double overtime, but the Lady Panthers got a No. 1 seed in the 6A State Tournament, which was held in El Dorado. Benton beat Jonesboro 54-49 in overtime in the first round, advancing in the state tournament for the first time in over 20 years, before dropping to a tough Van Buren Lady Pointers team in Round 2, 46-35. “We had a great year,” Benton Coach Jerry Chumley said after the loss, which put the Lady Panthers at 22-8 overall with a 13-1 6A South conference record.
The Lady Panthers would not of had that great year without their trademark defense. Benton held 10 teams to 30 points or less in wins. The Lady Panthers, which were a top-5 6A team, also could not have had one of their best seasons in recent memory without their All-State and All-Conference selections.
Senior point guard Brooke Million was named to All-State and All-State Tournament Team, while averaging 12.5 points per game in the tournament, making six 3-point shots. For the season, Million led the Lady Panthers in scoring average (9.0) and assists (2.8) per game.
“Brooke’s 3-point field-goal percentage was up this year, especially down the stretch in our conference race,” Chumley said. “In our last 10 games of the year, she hit a total of 32 3-point baskets. Clearly the best 3-point shooter in the league. Plus her defense and ball handling were the best of her three years here”.
Another All-State selection was junior post player Madison Brooks, who brought energy and strong defense, while providing a scoring presence down low.
“Madi was again a force for us this year with her scoring and rebounding, and led our team in steals and charges taken,” Chumley said. “A good defensive rebounder (6.5 per game), and overall the main catalyst for our man-to-man defense, which carried us to our conference championship."
Junior forward Korie Parker was named All-State as well and brought a toughness inside, as she was a battler inside, especially rebounding the ball.
“All of Korie’s numbers were up this year,” Chumley said. “She is a very consistent player who knows how to play bigger than she is. Korie has a knack for knocking down the mid-range shot, or taking you to the hole. She led us in 2-point field goal percentage (51%) and took care of the ball better than any other Lady Panther.”
Senior leader Bailey “Boo” Gately was selected All-Conference and was the X-factor for the Lady Panthers as she brought a little bit of everything to the table.
“Boo had another good year rebounding and her scoring was up (7.5 per game),” Chumley said. “She led us in offensive rebounding (3.5 per game) and tied Madi for charges taken. Not many will come through here and be as athletic as Boo."
The Lady Panthers even had a sophomore selected All-Conference. Guard Allison Reynolds, at 5-9, led Benton with 17 blocked shots and can do many things on the floor.
“Not many people know how much Allison has been through physically,” Chumley said.
“She has dealt with injuries all year and still made a lot of great plays for us. A versitale player who can hit the three and take it to the rim, no one looks better than Allison when they’re driving it to the basket”.
Coming off the bench, senior Haley Bryant provided a quickness that made her very effective defensively. Bryant was second on the team in steals and was named All-Conference Honorable Mention.
“Haley emerged as a very pivitol player for us this year,” Chumley said. “By far, her best year in basketball.
She improved a ton and played very big minutes for us. She had a knack for getting her hands on the ball and found some ways to score for us.”View more articles in: