GREENWOOD – The South No. 1 seed Benton Lady Panthers were down 7-0 early and never recovered in falling to a deep East No. 4 seed Greenwood Lady Bulldogs team 53-37 in the second round of the 6A State Tournament in Greenwood on Friday night.
Three different players for the Lady Bulldogs scored the first seven points before Benton senior Madi Brooks took a pass from sophomore Braylee Landreth for a layup for the Lady Panthers’ first points with 2:26 left in the first.
Brooks would hit a free throw to make it 7-3, but host Greenwood would finish the quarter up 13-3 and extended their 12-0 run, with the help of consecutive 3-pointers from Lundon Williams, into the second quarter leading 19-3 with 6:47 left in the half. Early turnovers led to Benton’s demise.
“A lot of those were early coming out of the gate,” Benton Coach Jerry Chumley said of the turnovers.
“Fortunately for us Greenwood didn’t start out shooting great. We hung around, kept playing hard, got to the free-line and hurt ourselves there too. We were unfortunate where we were at halftime. We had some chances to finish right there by the basket too. It should have been a four- or five-point game at worse.”
The Lady Panthers would fight back to make it a 13-point game, but Brooks picked up her third foul with 3:51 left in the half as both teams were playing very physical. Benton would get to the free-throw line 16 times in the first half, compared to just two for Greenwood, but the Lady Panthers would convert only half of those. With the help from 12 Benton turnovers, Greenwood outshot the Lady Panthers 29 to 7 in the first half, with Benton hitting just 2 of those 7 shots and trailing 25-12 at the half.
Sophomore Ashlie Dintleman got an offensive rebound and layup to start the second half and get Benton within 25-14, but the Lady Bulldogs responded with an 8-0 run to go up 19 points with 6:06 left in the third. Sophomore Braxton Chumley had a bucket and Landreth had an offensive rebound and put back to make it 37-18 with 2:12 left in the third, but Greenwood would lead 41-18 going into the fourth quarter.
“We worked hard all night,” Coach Chumley said. “I didn’t see any let up in our kids. [Greenwood is] a very good basketball team. They have a good player at every position. We fought hard, it just didn’t go our way. We knew their bench was deeper than ours. On their home floor, a good basketball team, good atmosphere, we had everything going against us. I’m proud of my team for hanging in there like we did.”
Not only did the Lady Bulldogs have the home crowd, they also played in a 7A/6A Central conference, which include the top four teams in the state according to maxpreps.com. Greenwood, ranked No. 4 in the state, had to take on No. 1 Hall, No. 2 Forth Smith Northside, No. 3 Parkview, and No. 7 Fort Smith Southside twice this season.
“These kids have never quit all year long,” Coach Chumley said of the Lady Panthers. “We’ve been down so many times, but you never see it in their faces, you never see it in their demeanor. They keep plugging and we ran into a really good basketball team that knows how to play.”
Braxton Chumley and Landreth each finished with nine points, with Landreth adding five rebounds, a block and a steal. Dintleman scored all eight of her points in the second half, Brooks had six points, five rebounds and four steals, and junior Carmen King had five points.
Another factor going against Benton was that junior starting forward Allison Reynolds, who was playing very well before severely spraining her ankle, could not play.
Benton finished with 22 turnovers to Greenwood’s 11, and Greenwood had 14 assists to Benton’s two. Both the Lady Panthers and Lady Bulldogs finished shooting 42 percent from the field, but Greenwood had 10 more field goals than Benton.
“They made more shots than we did,” Coach Chumley said. “We can live with that result. We had a great year. We’ve got that conference championship in our pocket. We have no reason to be down about anything. The future looks good in our program. Korie [Parker] and Madi (only two seniors) are great players, great leaders. The foundation that those two kids have laid and help lay … it’s not all about the ball bouncing and playing the game. It’s about character, relationships, and those two are the epitome of those things. They’re just great kids.”
The Lady Panthers finished the year with the 7A/6A South conference championship with a 13-1 record and ended the season with a 23-6 record.