Vance, Poland earn all-state; Panthers name five to all-conference

Eddie Poland and Luke Vance were named to the 6A All-State Team after the Benton Panthers finished the season as co-champions of the 6A South for the first time since 1989.

Poland, a three-year letterman, finished the season averaging nine points and three steals per game.

“He finished the season strong for us and was probably our best defender,” Benton coach Chris Nail said.

Nail said Poland will be visiting North Central Community College in Missouri, which is the same one former Panther Brandon Jones attended a couple of years ago.

Vance, who earned his first all-state honor, finished the season averaging 11 points and eight rebounds per game and led the Panthers in scoring.

“I’m really proud of Luke because of how he maximized his ability,” Nail said.

Vance has committed to Hendrix College and will sign with the program next month.

Junior Nate Griffin was named to the 2011 All-State Tournament Team after his performance in the 6A State Tournament in Marion. Griffin led the team with assists, averaging five a game, and was second on the team with steals. In the game against Mountain Home in the state tournament, Griffin led the team in scoring.

“Nate scored the ball well but as a team we didn’t play well that night,” Nail said. “He came on as the year progressed. We are excited about him coming back next year.”

Senior Trey Davis and sophomore Graham Gardner earned all-conference honors for the Panthers, as did Vance, Poland and Griffin.

Nail said Davis was “the hardest worker on our team this year.”

“He was one of our gutsiest performers this season,” Nail said. “He was the ‘glue guy’ for our team.”

Nail said Davis plans to attend the University of Arkansas, but does not intend to play basketball.

Nail said Gardner has really improved through his sophomore year. Nail expects for him to have a lot potential through the next two years.

“Graham right now is working on his upper body and core strength, and he is a good start right now this off season,” Nail said. “Our goal for him is to be stronger and agile.”

The Panthers finished the season 20-8 overall and 11-3 in the 6A South.

“I’m really proud of this team,” Nail said. “I was proud of our seniors. Last year we did not have a great year, but this year we got back on track to be kind of dominant. I think anytime you win 20 games, it is due to the talent of your seniors.”

Nail said his primarily goal before next season is to get physically strong and improve their strength.

“We also want to develop two or three outside shooters and develop a good team chemistry,” he said.