SPRINGDALE –The Benton Panthers lost for the first time this year dropping to the Springdale Bulldogs 61-56 in Springdale on Friday night.
“The game was pretty simple,” Benton Coach Chris Nail said. “We got off to a really slow start. They’re a really good team. We just kind of dug ourselves a hole there.”
The Panthers (8-1) were down 17-7 after the first quarter and 32-22 at the half, but made a run in the third quarter to cut it to within three points going into the fourth quarter. Benton was within one before falling by five points.
“The next three quarters we kind of settled down and played better,” Nail said. “After the first quarter, I was pretty pleased, but you have to play four quarters against a good team.”
Junior forward Josh Bowling, who leads Saline County schools with a 24.5 scoring average, returned after missing three games due to a broken nose which required surgery. Bowling showed no rust scoring 29 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out three assists. He was 12 of 18 (67 percent) from the field and 4 of 4 from the line.
“He jumped back in there and played well,” Nail said. “Zach Stuckey played well last night. There were some positive things, but the bad, I told the kids, ‘we’re going to have to get better defensively against really good, elite teams to beat them.’
A senior, Stuckey scored 12 points, and had three rebounds and three assists in the loss. Another aspect of the game Nail pointed out was the fact that the Bulldogs shot 10 more free throws and had 10 more rebounds than the Panthers.
“That was hard to overcome,” Nail said. “I thought both teams went to the goal hard.”
The Panthers return to action when they travel to Hot Springs to play the Trojans on Monday. Tip-off is 7:30 p.m.