SEARCY – The Benton Panthers started the 2013-14 basketball season with a bit of sloppiness. After senior forward Josh Bowling hit a 3-pointer from the corner to put the Panthers up 40-38 with 47 seconds left in regulation, the Greenbrier Panthers would tie it with a second remaining in the game to force overtime, and would go on to win 57-54 in three OTs in the first round of the Searcy Classic on Thursday.
"I'm disappointed that we lost, but I'm very proud of the way our kids played," Benton Coach Dwaine Fishburn said. "We always say coaches lose ballgames and players win it. As a coaching staff, we have to continue to find ways to get our kids in good positions to score. We're looking and adjusting, and just trying to get better. "
Junior Benton guard Nathan Humble’s 3-pointer, his first shot of the game, assisted by Bowling with 2:42 left in the first overtime put the Panthers (0-1) up 45-42, but Greenbrier would chip away. Former Bryant Hornet Tyler Simmons hit an 18-foot jumper to tie the game at 45-apiece, but Bowling would get an offensive rebound and put back to put Benton back on top 47-45 with 1:20 left. With less than 20 seconds left on the clock in the first OT, the Panthers had the ball under Greenbrier’s basket, but senior Blake Bowlin’s pass from the baseline was tipped and fell into the hands of Simmons for an easy bucket to tie it up once again, leading to a second OT.
The two teams would score 4 points each in the second overtime, before Greenbrier would take control in the third OT. The Panthers from the north would go up 55-51 early in the third OT and hung on for the 3-point win.
After being up 4-0 with the Panthers scoring six seconds into the game when sophomore Clay Anderson found Bowling down low off the tip, and senior Luke Vincent would lay it in for the 4-point lead, Greenbrier would outscore Benton 16-3 the rest of the first quarter to lead 16-7 after one.
Benton would clean it up in the second quarter, outscoring Greenbrier 14-7 and would get a layup by junior Ketiran Jones, assisted by Anderson, with 1 second left in the half and Benton down 23-21. Benton would hold a 29-24 lead after a Bowling layup with 2:18 left in the third quarter, but with the score tied 35-35 with 3:02 left in the fourth, Simmons would get a bucket and a foul for Greenbrier, hitting the free throw to make it 38-35 with 2:21 left in the fourth before Bowling scored 4 consecutive.
"I was really pleased how are younger players, which have no varsity experience at all, how well they played," Fishburn said. "We were playing some really young players tonight and I was very proud of their efforts. But we had some key turnovers by more experienced players that were uncharacteristic."
Bowling would finish with a team-high 20 points, adding seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks, but also led the team with five turnovers. Anderson had 9 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals, and Jones scored 8 points off the bench and added four rebounds, three assists and two steals. Vincent had 7 points and Bowlin had 7 points as well, but shot just 2 for 14 (0-10 3-pointers). Bowlin added 12 rebounds and two blocks.
With Panther football players Tarek Beaugard and Cason Maertens still on the gridiron, the Benton basketball team played only six players on Thursday.
"We're undersized and kind of under-manned," Fishburn said. "But it will definitely help when we get our football players back in. We had every opportunity to win that game. There's no doubt in my mind that it helps that it was Greenbrier's third or fourth game of the year and it was our first."