Panthers fall in 3rd straight

Benton senior guard Jai Peters attempts to save the ball from out of bounds in a 55-52 loss to the Sheridan Yellowjackets on the road Friday. Peters scored a game-high 20 points, 16 in the first half, dished out eight assists and had four steals in the loss. The Panthers return home on Monday to face the Pine Bluff Zebras in a makeup game. GREG DAVIS/Special to The Saline Courier
Tony Lenahan
Sports Editor

In a hard-fought battle on Sheridan’s senior night, the Benton Panthers would fall 55-52 in 6A/5A District 5 action Friday night in Sheridan. Not only did the Panthers lose their third straight game, they may have lost a key contributor to the squad as senior Evan Sims, the Panthers’ second leading scorer, went out of the game with a knee injury with about three and a half minutes remaining in the third quarter.
“It’s kind of in the air right now,” Benton Coach Dexter Hendrix said of Sims’ injury. “We’re hoping it’s not an ACL. He said he heard it pop so we’re going to have our fingers crossed and go to the doctor as soon as he gets back. Obviously a big blow right there at a crucial time.”
Hendrix on Saturday said that Sims’ injury may be his meniscus and they will get a better diagnosis Monday morning. Hendrix said Sims is “highly doubtful” for Monday’s makeup game with the Pine Bluff Zebras at Benton Arena.
Not only could it be a big blow for the rest of the season, but Sims and senior guard Jai Peters were clicking, especially in the first half with Sims scoring nine of his 11 points in the opening half, and Peters scoring 16 of his 20 in the first.
“They were really working well together,” Hendrix said. “When they shut Jai off, he just dumped it off to Evan and that was a great combination in the first half and even early in the second half. That’s the thing about basketball. You never know who’s going to go down, who’s going to turn an ankle, get fouled out. That’s why teams with depth to them, staying balanced, normally we have success, we just weren’t able to do that when Evan went down.”
The Panthers (16-8, 5-5 district) were down 39-35 with just over a minute remaining in the third quarter before Peters made a layup and hit an 18-foot jumper to tie things up at 39-apiece going into the fourth. But, the Yellowjackets (13-11, 3-7) started the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run before junior Carl Ross hit 1 of 2 free throws to stop the bleeding with Benton down 47-40 with 4:57 left to go.
“We knew coming in it was their Super Bowl,” Hendrix said of the Yellowjackets. “It was a big game for those guys and I thought they played with a lot of intensity, a lot of heart. I was proud of our kids they way they played in the first half.”
Benton hosts the Pine Bluff Zebras in the makeup game Monday at Benton Arena.