Benton defense leads to big road win

Benton junior Makenzy Davidson, 25, goes up for a shot in a gameearlier this season. Davidson had 18 points to lead the Lady Panthers in a 53-34 victory over Pine Bluff on the road. GREG DAVIS/Special to The Saline Courier
Tony Lenahan
Sports Editor

The Benton Lady Panthers picked up their third win in their last four tries on Friday, getting a 53-34 victory on the road against the Fillies in 6A/5A District 5 action in Pine Bluff. A slow start for both teams, the Lady Panthers took off the final minute of the first quarter and never let up, using defense to stifle the Fillies.
“We played pretty good down there,” Benton Coach Jerry Chumley said. “We didn’t get off to a great start. Both teams just had a real sloppy start – turnovers and bad shots.”
It was a tie game, 2-2, with about a minute left in the first quarter before Benton (10-11, 4-4) hit two threes and a free throw to take a 9-5 lead after one. It was the second quarter the Lady Panthers went off as they outscored the Fillies (5-10, 4-3) 18-5 to take a 27-10 halftime lead.
“We’re really playing at a high level, defensively,” Chumley said. “Our press got to them and we created a lot of turnovers. We had 19 turnovers on top of all that. It really could have been a mercy-rule situation if we could have just taken care of the ball. We missed some shots around the basket that we should of made.”
Benton upped its lead to 22 points, 43-21, in the third before leading 45-26 going into the final stanza, where the Lady Panthers played even with Fillies for the 19-point win.
“Anytime we score 45 points or more, we’ve got a good chance of winning the game because our defense is so good,” Chumley said. “We really could have scored 65, but we didn’t play real disciplined offensively. We only got to the free-throw line nine times, so we’re settling for jump shots more than attacking. We played in too big of a hurry at times.”
Junior Makenzy Davidson led the way with 18 points and fellow junior Kennedy Stringfellow hit four 3-pointers for 12 points. Senior guard Italei Gray added 11, while sophomore post player Rhema Riley had six and played well defensively.
Zebras 62,
Panthers 53
A good start for the Benton Panthers on the road wouldn’t hold up on Friday as the Panthers would fall 62-53 to the Pine Bluff Zebras in 6A/5A District 5 play.
Benton took a 14-9 lead after one quarter and played well to start the second, but turnovers led to easy baskets for the Zebras as Pine Bluff led 24-20 at the half.
“The biggest deal was turnovers,” Benton Coach Dexter Hendrix said. “We just couldn’t take care of the basketball. We really struggled in the first half and that’s how they got back in it and took the lead. We just had a lot of pick-6 turnovers where they would just take it from us and shoot layups. We can’t defend that. That was a huge impact on the game.”
The Panthers (16-6, 5-3) fought back to tie it in the third quarter but the Zebras (12-6, 6-1) had a late run to take a 38-34 lead at the end of three.
“We tied it up in the third quarter and it was a really close game until the end,” Hendrix said. “They just made some plays at crucial times and we couldn’t capitalize on some things. Speed kills and they have a lot of speed on the floor. It just seemed like we were chasing them a lot of the fourth quarter.
“I’m proud of the way we came out after halftime and tied it back up. We fought hard the second half.”
The Panthers’ next game won’t get any easier as they face the top team in the state, the Mills Comets, on Tuesday at Benton Arena. Mills beat Benton 67-54 in Little Rock the first go-around.