3rd-quarter run lifts Panthers

Benton senior guard Jai Peters, 2, makes a jump shot in a 59-46 victory over the Searcy Lions Tuesday at Benton Arena. Peters got off to an excellent start to the year scoring 31 points and picking off seven passes in the victory. Benton plays again against Beebe on the road Tuesday. TONY LENAHAN/The Saline Courier
Tony Lenahan
Sports Editor

Down by one at the half, senior Jai Peters and the Benton Panthers would make a run in the middle of the third quarter to take the lead for good on their way to a 59-46 victory over the Searcy Lions in Benton Arena for a season-opening win.
“We really tried to find our energy at halftime,” Benton Coach Dexter Hendrix said. “I feel like we didn’t come out with a lot of energy, especially in the second quarter. I think we finally put them in some spots where they could be successful, offensively.”
Down 26-25 at halftime, the Panthers (1-0) allowed five straight points from the Lions as Searcy’s Malik Branch hit a three and a lay up to put the Lions up 31-25. But, Peters would pick off a pass for a lay up and he assisted senior center Connor Croft for a bucket to get within two with 5:56 left in the third.
Searcy responded with a 4-point run, but the Panthers took off from there as Peters’ 8-foot jumper and another steal and bucket brought Benton within 35-33, and junior Grant Shelnut’s 3-pointer assisted by senior Dylan Robbins gave Benton the lead for good. Yet another Peters steal and layup capped the 9-0 Benton run for a 38-35 lead with just under four minutes to play in the quarter.
Peters ended up scoring 13 points in the third quarter on his way to a 31-point night in the win. He was 13 of 22 from the field, 5 of 5 from the free-throw line and added seven steals.