Panthers come back for win

Benton junior Carson Cates drives in a game earlier this season. Cates led the Panthers with 16 points in a 55-50 victory over the Watson Chapel Wildcats on the road. GREG DAVIS/Special to The Saline Courier
Tony Lenahan
Sports Editor

Down by eight late in the third quarter to the Watson Chapel Wildcats on the road, the Benton Panthers came back to claim a 55-50 victory Tuesday in 6A/5A District 5 action in Pine Bluff.
Down by eight points with 1:30 left in the third quarter, seniors Evan Sims and Jai Peters hit back-to-back 3-pointers to make it a two-point game, 33-31, going into the fourth and the Panthers took care of business from there.
“I’m really proud of our guys after a tough loss at home last Friday night,” Benton Coach Dexter Hendrix said of losing to White Hall. “You always want to see your team come out and respond. I thought we did just that (Tuesday) on the road against a really, really talented Watson Chapel team. We tell our guys it’s like a boxing match with all of these blended conference games is a 12-round fight. We got hit in the face and down last week, but last night we really stuck in there and found a way to get a win.
“We came out in the fourth quarter and played really, really well down the stretch.”
The Panthers (16-5, 5-2) led 13-8 after one before a slow second quarter saw them get outscored 10-7, but Benton still led 20-18 at halftime. It was the third quarter where the Wildcats looked to be running away with it, but the Panthers fought back.
Watson Chapel 61,
Benton 28
The Benton Lady Panthers were hanging with the defending 5A state champion Watson Chapel Lady Wildcats Tuesday on the road. Down just 14-12 after one quarter, the Lady Panthers would end up falling 61-28 in blended conference play.
“We got off to a really great start,” Benton Coach Jerry Chumley said. “Makenzy Davidson had two or three quick buckets and Italei Gray was driving and scoring. Last time we played them, we had nine points at halftime and right off the bat we scored 12 in the first quarter so things were looking pretty good.”
But, Watson Chapel’s defense picked up in the second quarter and Benton’s shooting didn’t.
“We just went into a drought,” Chumley said. “They just locked us down defensively and we got rattled a little bit and started turning the ball over. We had 14 turnovers for the game, which is not crazy high, but it seemed like they all came in the second and third quarters when they were building the lead.”
The Lady Wildcats held Benton to just four points in the second quarter to lead 31-16 at the break and increased that advantage to 49-23 after three quarters.
The Panthers hit the road again on Friday when they meet up with the Pine Bluff Zebras for the first time this year, as their first game has been postponed twice due to inclement weather.