Slow start turns into blowout

The Benton Freshman Panthers, behind 13 points from Jackson Oulch and 12 points from Clay Anderson, defeated Cabot North 39-21 Monday night. The win improves Benton’s season record to 7-1.
“It’s always nice to win the home opener,” Panther Head Coach David Torres said. “We got off to a bit of a slow start, but we’re able to speed up the game halfway through the first quarter. Cabot North is a big, long team and we were able to get them into an up-tempo game.”
Indeed. After Cabot North’s Jared Dixon scored the game’s first basket, Benton closed out the first quarter with a 10-0 run. Oulch, getting his first start of the season, scored five in the first quarter, including his first of three 3-pointers in the game and Westin Riddick scored three on a field goal and free throw to give the Panthers a 10-2 lead after the first quarter.
The teams played a defensive stalemate in the second quarter. Cason Maertens hit a 3-pointer for the only Benton score in the quarter, giving the Panthers a 13-6 lead at halftime.
The pace of the game and the Panther lead turned in the third quarter. Oulch connected on a jumper over the Cabot North zone and Clay Anderson immediately made a steal and layup to get the Panthers started on an 18-7 quarter. Oulch drained two 3-pointers late in the quarter to push the Panther lead to 29-9.
“I though Cabot’s length in their zone defense gave us some problems,” Torres said. “But Jackson (Oulch) had the solution by just shooting over the top of their zone. He had his best game of the season for us tonight.”
The Panthers stretched their lead to 39-16 before Torres emptied his bench with 1:48 left in the game.
Benton had only four players score in the game. In addition to Oulch and Anderson, Maertens scored nine points (including two 3-pointers) and Riddick scored five points.
The Panthers are back at home on Thursday evening to play Hot Springs. The Trojans are the only team to defeat Benton this season in the semifinals of the Bryant Invitational held before Thanksgiving.
“We’re looking forward to the rematch with Hot Springs,” Torres said. “Hot Springs is undefeated and beat us by 20 in the Bryant tournament. They are a great team, one of the best junior high teams I’ve seen, but we’ve got a great opportunity. If we play well, play better transition defense, and believe we can, we will.”
The Benton Freshman Lady Panthers fell to Cabot North 29-20 on Monday night.
“I’m proud of our girls and the way they battled tonight coming off the Thanksgiving break,” Lady Panther Head Coach Kelly Scott said. “North is one of the two best teams in our conference and our defense kept us in the game.”
The Lady Panthers struggled offensively, scoring just eight combined points in the first, second and fourth quarters. In fact, the Lady Panthers did not score a field goal the entire first half and trailed 10-3 at halftime with just three made free throws.
Tia Brazell and Taylor Oglesby led a 12-point third-quarter charge by converting steals into layups. Oglesby and Brazell accounted for 10 of the Lady Panthers’ 12 points with Breanna Landreth scoring the other basket on a steal and layup.
“We’re still struggling offensively,” Scott admitted. “But if we continue to play defense as hard as we did tonight, we’ll be okay. If the girls give that kind of effort each night out, it’s going to bode well for the rest of the season.
Brazell led the Lady Panthers with eight points, Oglesby chipped in seven, Landreth had three points and Jocelyn Brown had two points.
The Lady Panthers also return to action Thursday night against the Hot Springs Lady Trojans at home. Tipoff is 6 p.m. for the Lady Panthers with the Panthers-Trojans rematch to follow.