SHERIDAN – The Benton Lady Panthers are starting to get used to winning in the 7A/6A South conference. After going 13-1 last season for the conference championship, losing their last conference game to El Dorado by one point, Benton has now started 3-0 in conference this season after a 38-24 victory against the Lady Yellowjackets in Sheridan on Friday. Just as defense won the them the conference last season, defense is doing it again this year.
“There might be some people ask for their money back,” Benton Coach Jerry Chumley joked, “but if you like defense and kids getting after each other, then you enjoyed the game because it was really a defensive battle.”
The Lady Panthers (12-4, 3-0 South) got off to an early lead taking a 9-3 advantage after one quarter and leading 23-11 at the half, but some things changed in the second half, such as both teams having trouble holding on to the ball.
“It was just a real ugly game,” Chumley said. “Lots of turnovers. The first half went pretty clean, but after halftime … that third quarter was probably the worst four minutes of basketball anyone has ever seen. We started the second half with six consecutive turnovers, but Sheridan gave them all back to us with turnovers of their own. It was just really, really bad.
“But it was two really good defensive teams causing those turnovers. Some were bone-headed, but Sheridan (8-5, 1-2) was trapping all over the place with a full-court press, three-quarter court trap, half-court trapping. If you were in the game, you got your butt trapped. That caused us some problems, but defensively, we played as good man-to-man defense we’ve played. It was one of our better defensive efforts too.”
Though it was rough on both teams, Benton never folded as they held a 28-15 lead going into the fourth and didn’t let up in the fourth.
“I’m really proud of the girls because when we did turn it over, we didn’t get our dauber down,” Chumley said. “They would dig in and D up and I was so proud of them for doing that. We kept them from ever making a run.”
Senior forward Korie Parker led a balanced Benton scoring attack with 10 points. Sophomore Braylee Landreth had eight, senior Madi Brooks seven and sophomore Ashlie Dintleman six. Sophomore Braxton Chumley added four and junior Allison Reynolds had three. The Lady Panthers shot 15 of 21 from the foul line to help keep the Yellowjackets at bay.
“Just a real gritty effort,” Coach Chumley said. “We’ve gone on the road now at two difficult places to play, Bryant and Sheridan, and were able to come out of there with a win.
Benton has defeated all three of its conference opponents by more than 10 points – defeated Bryant 49-33 and JA Fair 62-14 – which translates into tie-breaker points for the conference race.
“You get 10 tie-breaker points if you win by 10 or more so we were able to get full tie-breaker points both road games,” Chumley said. “That could prove to be big later. This thing (conference race) is going to tighten up. It’s going to be a tight race. It’s really big to go down and get that win.”
The Lady Panthers will host the Lady Razorbacks of Arkansas High on Tuesday in South conference play.