EL DORADO – After an uninspiring first half of play, the Benton Panthers took it to the El Dorado Wildcats 65-39 in 7A/6A South Conference play on Tuesday night in El Dorado. The Panthers improve to 14-5 overall and 5-1 in the South.
“I thought the first half, rebounding-wise, we were very lackadaisical,” Benton Coach Dwaine Fishburn said. “We let their athleticism get to us. They hit the boards hard against us. I was disappointed by our defensive rebounding.
“We weren’t hungry or played with a purpose in the first half.”
Though Fishburn wasn’t happy with Benton’s play, the Panthers still led 36-28 at halftime and turned it on in the second set.
“They came out a lot more focused in the second half,” Fishburn said of the Panthers. “We held them to three field goals in the second half and outscored them 29-8. [Benton] played great team basketball.”
Fishburn credited the Panther guards’ defensive play, especially sophomore stopper Clay Anderson.
“Our guards had a very good game defensively,” Fishburn said. “Josh [Bowling] had a big game for us. Clay Anderson is our defensive stopper. I was really proud of all of our guards, but especially Clay Anderson. Not only was Anderson on their best player, but he scored 11 points.”
Bowling led the Panthers with 27 points, senior guard Tarek Beaugard had nine, and senior Blake Bowlin and sophomore Cason Maertens each had seven points.
The Panthers’ quest for the conference championship doesn’t get any easier when they welcome the Pine Bluff Zebras into town on Tuesday.
“We have a big, big home game against Pine Bluff,” Fishburn said. “They are the most athletic team in our conference. It’s not even close. They have some really good-shooting guards. It’s not the first shot that will hurt you, it’s the second, third and fourth. They send everybody to the boards.”