Panthers win to tie for 2nd; Ladies keep rolling

BENTON – The Benton Lady Panthers won their 10th game in a row defeating the Pine Bluff Lady Zebras 52-39 on Tuesday night in 6A South conference action at Benton Arena. The win improves the Lady Panthers to 8-0 in conference, keeping Benton in first place in front of Texarkana (7-1).

The Lady Panthers (16-6, 8-0 6A South) didn’t score in the first three minutes of the game, but got things going when senior Brooke Million hit three 3-pointers to help Benton take a 12-6 lead after the first quarter.

“That kind of opened things up and got us going,” Benton Coach Jerry Chumley said. “It always happens that way. We need somebody to make a big shot to get us going. Once we have somebody do that, we tend to start playing. I don’t know what it is, but somebody breaks the ice for us, somebody different every night.”

It was much of the same in the second quarter as Benton outscored the Lady Zebras (11-10, 3-5) 12-7 to take a 24-13 halftime lead.

“Defensively we played pretty solid the first half,” Chumley said. “We just weren’t as sharp tonight. I know we won by 13 and we’re happy about all that, but we didn’t play with the intensity tonight we did Friday night in Texarkana.”

The Lady Panthers had a minor hiccup in the third quarter when the Lady Zebras took advantage of Benton’s lax perimeter defense by hitting 3-pointers to get back in the game. It was a 34-25 Lady Panthers’ lead going into the fourth quarter, where Benton outscored Pine Bluff 18-14 to extend their winning streak.

Benton hit 7 of 9 free throws in the fourth quarter to keep Pine Bluff at bay and outrebounded the Lady Zebras 31-20 for the game. Though the Lady Panthers forced a lot of missed shots from their opponent, they are still struggling with turnovers, committing close to 20 for the game.

Million finished with five 3-pointers to finish with a team-high 16 points and senior forward Bailey Gately had 12 points, all in the second half. Sophomore Allison Reynolds scored eight points, and juniors Korie Parker and Madison Brooks each scored six.

After hitting just two 3-pointers in her first five conference games, Million has hit 10 3-pointers the past three games. “She’s coming around,” Chumley said. “It’s good to have Brooke Million back doing what she does best.”

“We’ve got a target on our back now,” Chumley said. “Everybody is going to give us their best shot. I’m trying to teach the girls that’s going to happen now. We’re the hunted, not the hunter. Everybody is circling our game now wanting to knock us off.

“It’s just a good lesson we have to play with a high intensity all four quarters or somebody is going to knock us down. I don’t want the [Lady Panthers] thinking there is pressure to win. We just have to do what we do and do it well. If it’s good enough, great. If it’s not, make somebody beat us instead of [giving it to them]. We’re having a good year. We just have to keep it rolling.”

The Benton Panthers followed the girls’ game and picked up a much-needed victory defeating the Pine Bluff Zebras 56-52 in overtime on Tuesday night in 6A South play at Benton Arena. The win puts the Panthers in a tie for second place with the Zebras behind Little Rock McClellan.

“I thought for the first 30 minutes of the game, we played our best, most intelligent game of the year,” Benton Coach Chris Nail said. “The last few minutes, we made some mistakes that we have to clean up, but I was really encouraged tonight. We had more of a controlled team concept than we have all year. We did a nice job defensively.”

Benton (15-7, 5-3 6A South) was up by six points with two minutes remaining in the game, but questionable shots and a good Pine Bluff team allowed the Zebras to come back. A Pine Bluff player hit a layup at the buzzer to tie it at the end of regulation.

“We made some mistakes because of our youth,” Nail said. “Took some ill-advised shots when we should have been killing the clock.”

But, the Panthers pulled through in overtime, hitting 7 of 10 free throws to account for all of their scoring, while holding the Zebras to just three points in the extra period.

“I credit the kids for bouncing back at that point,” Nail said. “They got their dauber down, but came back and won that four-minute period.”

It was a battle of a game the whole way as it was tied 11-11 after the first and Benton outscored Pine Bluff (15-7, 3-5) by two points in the second quarter to take a 21-19 lead into halftime. The Panthers led 34-33 going into the fourth quarter.

Benton limited their turnovers to just 11 in a relatively clean game as the Panthers, a team that usually uses the full-court press, didn’t press once against the Zebras.

“We really wanted to control the tempo so we did not press one possession,” Nail said. “We played a half-court game tonight.

“It’s one of those deals where we pressed them in Pine Bluff and we felt like defensively that was fine, but it sped us up too much offensively. We thought going to a half-court game against this particular team, it would slow us down and help us execute better offensively.”

The Panthers lost 56-51 to the Zebras when they played Jan. 17 in Pine Bluff.

Sophomore Josh Bowling led the Panthers’ scoring attack and junior Rickey Gipson had 10 points. Senior point guard Nate Griffin had eight points and six assists, and junior post man Graham Gardner had nine points and 10 rebounds. Junior guard Thaddeus Caffery also had eight points.

For the Zebras, Darrian Key had 15 points.

“I was really encouraged,” Nail said of his team’s performance. “I thought tonight, we showed some chemistry. That’s kind of what we’ve been missing offensively this year. I was very pleased with that.”