Lady Panthers survive first round

EL DORADO – The Benton Lady Panthers escaped with a 54-49 overtime victory over the Jonesboro Lady Hurricane on Tuesday in the first round of the 6A State Playoffs in El Dorado. The South No. 1 seed Lady Panthers(22-7) were down two points with 4.5 seconds left in regulation against the No. 8 seed Lady Hurricane.

“They’re not your normal No. 8 seed,” Benton Coach Jerry Chumley said. “They’re pretty dad gum athletic and pretty good. We had a 10-point lead in the second half and instead of building on it, we let them get back into it.”

The Lady Panthers were up by 10 points in the fourth quarter before turnovers and excellent Jonesboro free-throw shooting (10 of 12 in the fourth quarter and 24 of 27 in the game) allowed the Lady Hurricane back in the game.

“Every time we put them on the line, they would knock them down,” Chumley said of the free throws. “That’s really what kept them in the game. That, and of course our turnovers.

Jonesboro took a 43-41 lead, but senior Haley Bryant got a steal and a layup to tie it with about 25 seconds remaining. After the Lady Hurricane hit two free throws to go up 45-43, junior forward Korie Parker went to the free-throw line with 4.5 seconds remaining in regulation. She hit the first one and Jonesboro called a full time out intending to ‘’ice” Parker, but to no avail. Parker hit the second free throw to tie the game.

The Lady Hurricane got a good look from about 35 feet at the buzzer, but the shot rimmed out to force overtime.

After committing close to 20 turnovers for the game, the Lady Panthers didn’t commit one in overtime as sophomore Allison Reynolds began the extra period with a 3-pointer to start Benton’s run. The Lady Panthers didn’t allow a field goal, with Jonesboro hitting four free throws for their only points of overtime.

“Overtime, we were real solid,” Chumley said. “We finished the game strong in overtime and it is only the second time we’ve been in that situation all year. We learned from that situation we were in last week.”

The Lady Panthers snapped their 15-game winning streak and chance at a perfect 14-0 conference record when they lost 43-39 in double overtime to El Dorado in the regular-season finale last week.

It seemed as if Benton was going run away with the game early on as they were clicking offensively scoring 14 and 16 points in the first and second quarters, respectively, for a 30-24 halftime lead.

Senior guard Brooke Million and Reynolds each hit a 3-pointer in the first quarter, and Million and freshman Savanna Mayo hit two threes in the second quarter.

“We were shooting the ball well and doing a good job,” Chumley said.
Also, freshman post player Braylee Landreth contributed four points inside to help the Lady Panthers’ cause.

“We’ve been preparing them to play in practice, and [Tuesday] night they came in and did a good job,” Chumley said of the freshman.

Million led the Lady Panthers with 12 points, hitting three 3-pointers, and junior post player Madison Brooks followed with 10. Parker added nine, and Reynolds and Bryant each scored six points.

Though Benton got off to a good start, the second half was a different story as they had a tough time scoring the and holding on to the ball.

“We had way too many turnovers,” Chumley said.

For Jonesboro, Kayla Johnson scored 17 points.

The Lady Panthers will take on the winner of No. 4 seed Van Buren and No. 5 seed Pine Bluff with the teams playing at 4 p.m. Benton will play the winner on Thursday at 7 p.m. in El Dorado.

“We’re happy,” Chumley said. “It’s the first time we’ve advanced in the State Tournament in a long, long time. At least 15 years. It continues to be a season of firsts for the Lady Panthers. We’re happy to be moving on.”