Coach will take ugly loss

BENTON – Despite a less-than-stellar performance, the Benton Panthers came away with a 50-44 victory over the Sheridan Yellowjackets in 7A/6A South conference play on Tuesday night in Benton Arena. It was the Panthers’ 12th consecutive victory and Benton is ranked seventh in the state in the Hog Country Top 10 poll.
“I did not think we played well at all tonight,” Benton Coach Chris Nail said. “We had dead legs all night. We didn’t have our usual motion. Sheridan played good. You can’t say it was all us, but I didn’t think we played well.
“I don’t say things positive unless there is something positive to say. Besides getting a win, overall I was disappointed in the way we played.”
The Panthers (21-2, 10-0 South) didn’t seem their energetic selves as they gave up an offensive rebound and put back to give the Yellowjackets an 8-4 lead with 3:38 left in the first quarter. A 7-0 run capped by a Josh Bowling offensive rebound and put back gave Benton an 11-8 lead, but Sheridan would lead 12-11 after one. It looked as if the Panthers were getting out of their funk when an 11-3 run put Benton up 22-15 after senior Rickey Gipson’s 3-pointer, but second-chance opportunities allowed Sheridan to come back and take a 23-22 lead before Benton’s Bryan Torres scored his first points of the game with an 18-foot jumper, giving the Panthers a 24-23 halftime lead.
Nail didn’t know the reason for the lack of energy the Panthers usually give night in and night out.
“I don’t want to speculate what’s on the minds of 16-year olds, but we just didn’t have our usual intensity,” Nail said.
Torres opened the second half with a 3-pointer which sparked a 9-0 run and was capped by senior Quin Allen’s two free throws. Bowling was fouled on an offensive rebound and stick back to give Benton a 37-27 lead with 3:05 left in the third, but the Yellowjackets would fight back.
Continuous second-chance opportunities and inside buckets got Sheridan within 39-37 midway through the fourth quarter, and senior Graham Gardner’s layup and foul assisted by Torres put the Panthers up 45-41 after the made bonus shot with 1:22 left. The Panthers would extend their lead after that, but Benton was out rebounded 29-23 and shot 44 percent. Sheridan shot 36 percent from the field.
“It’s probably the first time all year long we were outrebounded,” Nail said. “Graham’s in foul trouble all night long. It was an ugly win, but we’ll take ugly wins.”
Bowling led a balanced Panther scoring attack with 12 points and seven rebounds. Torres scored nine points and dished out five assists, Allen scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds, and Gardner and Gipson scored seven apiece.
The Panthers will continue 7A/6A South conference play on Friday in Texarkana against the Razorbacks.