JONESBORO – Leading 33-29 after consecutive Braxton Chumley steals and layups late in the third quarter, the South No. 2 seed Benton Lady Panthers could muster just six more points the rest of the way and the East No. 3 seed Searcy Lady Lions ended Benton’s season with a 53-39 victory in the quarterfinals of the 6A State Tournament in Jonesboro Monday night.
“We got into a lull and it just lasted and lasted,” Benton Coach Jerry Chumley said. “We couldn’t get anything good to happen, made poor decision after poor decision. While we were doing that they (Lions) were just building the lead. Just playing and doing their thing and then we just kind of wilted. We didn’t show very good mental toughness there the last five or six minutes.”
The Lady Panthers (20-6), which defeated host Jonesboro 42-37 in the first round of the tourney, trailed by eight, 23-15, at the half, but turned it on to start the second half. Senior Allison Reynolds, who led all scorers with a season-high 21 points, hit a 3-pointer assisted by Braxton Chumley. Searcy’s senior 6-5 post player Angelina Williams got an offensive rebound and put back to push the lead to seven, but Benton followed with six straight points – two layups from junior Ashlie Dintleman and an 8-footer from junior Braylee Landreth – to get it within one, 25-24, with 5:22 left in the third.
Reynolds hit her third three of the game to tie it at 27-apiece and Chumley would tie it again at 29-29 before the Lady Panthers took their four-point lead with Chumley’s steals. But, the Lady Lions outrebounded the Lady Panthers 18-5 in the second half and 29-15 for the game.
“We weren’t tough on the boards,” Coach Chumley said. “We didn’t block out well and we didn’t go to the offensive boards. We let the 6-5 girl really affect the game with our mindset in the lane. That’s what she does. Give her credit, they keep her in there and that’s the reason why. She’s the great protector.”
The Lady Lions also had 14 steals to contribute to 17 Lady Panther turnovers, and according to Searcy Coach Michelle Birdsong, picking off passes was the plan.
“I thought we had a good team performance offensively and defensively,” Birdsong said. “Benton has some really good shooters and we had to overplay them. They like a lot of those cross-court passes. We really stressed that and the girls did a really good job of picking off a few of those passes.”
Benton would get off to a good start for the game as Reynolds attacked right away opening the game with a 3-pointer and layup for the 5-0 lead. Searcy senior Brittnee Broadway had two short jumpers to get within one before Chumley had an offensive rebound and layup to make it 7-4. It was a tie game after one, 9-9.
“We had a good year,” Coach Chumley said. “We let two or three games get away from us that we shouldn’t have. Overall, Allison and JayeLynn (Martin) have been great leaders for us. Al went out with a bang and played well. She was probably the best player on the floor most of the game. I’m so proud of her for her effort in the game.”
Behind Reynolds 21 points, Chumley followed with 12 points and four steals, Dintleman had four points, and Landreth two.
“We have a lot back,” Coach Chumley said of next season. “We have a good nucleus of kids back. We’re losing two good ones, but the future looks good. We’ll just continue to work and have to work on our mental toughness.”
For Searcy, Brittnee Broadway led with 15 points, seven rebounds and three steals, Williams had 14 points, six rebounds and four blocks, Arabriaun Mack had nine points, eight rebounds and four steals, and Keke Broadway had 10 points and four rebounds.