PEARCY – Struggling a bit in the first half, the Benton Lady Panthers cleaned it up in the second to come away with a 44-37 victory over the Lake Hamilton Lady Wolves in 7A/6A South Conference action on Tuesday at Lake Hamilton High School. It was Benton’s fourth consecutive win after losing three straight.
The Lady Panthers (17-5, 9-3 South) jumped on the Lady Wolves 8-2 early with the help of two Braxton Chumley 3-pointers, and would lead 18-10 in the second quarter before allowing Lake Hamilton to come back and tie it 22-22 at the half.
“We could have had a bigger lead,” Benton Coach Jerry Chumley said. “We were making some defensive mistakes, weren’t talking very well. Really that lasted throughout the whole game.”
Junior forward Ashlie Dintleman got into early foul trouble and had to sit much of the second quarter, as did junior forward Braylee Landreth for playing “out-of-sync”. The Lady Wolves would take advantage.
“Had to have them on the bench for a lot of the second quarter,” Coach Chumley said. “That hurt us a little bit not having any size in there. That’s when Kori Bullard, their big girl (6-2), got a few baskets.”
Landreth was 0 for 3 with two turnovers and two rebounds in the first half, but the junior would more than compensate for her first-half struggles in the second half.
“After halftime, Braylee really found a great rhythm out there,” Chumley said. “After halftime, she went 6 of 8 from the field, mostly 10- to 12-foot jumpers. She had her short jumper going and picked up six rebounds and four of her steals came in the fourth quarter. Braylee took over the second half and really led the charge for us.”
Landreth finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and six steals, but it was senior Allison Reynolds’ buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter which energized the Lady Panthers going into the fourth. Benton led 34-33 after three.
“That was a big shot in the arm because they had taken a little bit of a lead, down five, but that three just set the tone for the fourth quarter. It was just a great, gritty effort.
“That fourth quarter may have been our best quarter as far as overall team defense in a long time. We were talking, we were helping, we were doing everything like you teach and really just took over the game.”
It’s definitely not the first time the Lady Panthers have been down or leading by just one or two points going into the fourth. It’s also not the first time Benton has taken over the fourth quarter to close out the game.
“I don’t understand,” Coach Chumley said. “I’m glad it’s happening. That’s the clutch quarter for you. I’d like to do that for four quarters. They’re mature and they understand that’s when we need them the most. They’re stepping up at the key times.
The Lady Panthers held the Lady Wolves’ leading scorers for the season, Kori Bullard and Kylie Frazier, to just eight points apiece. But free-throw shooting, which has been a struggle for Benton all year, remained a struggle on Tuesday night. Benton hit just 6 of 15 for the game.
“It’s still a sore spot,” Chumley said of the free throws. “We missed nine free throws and some of them were front ends of 1-and-1s. Still have to get better there.”
Reynolds led the Lady Panthers with 13 points and four assists, Chumley had eight points and three assists, and Dintleman had six points.
Benton will host the El Dorado Lady Wildcats on Friday. The Wildcats gave the Lady Panthers their worst defeat of the year, 49-25, in El Dorado late last month after Benton led at the half.