By Rob Patrick
As an early Christmas present for area sports fans, the Bryant and Benton high school basketball teams will[more] meet tonight in the 2011 Saline County Shootout at the Hornets Nest.
The Shootout is sponsored by Everett Buick GMC and, once again, a fan will get the opportunity to “shoot for a vehicle”. A table will be set up in the foyer of the gym where fans can sign up for the contest. From those registrants, three names will be drawn and will be given a chance to make a layup, a free throw, a three-point shot and a half-court shot in 24 seconds to win a vehicle from Everett Buick GMC during halftime of the boys game.
A past winner will actually be playing in the game for the Panthers. Sophomore Tamario Beaugard performed the feat when he was in a junior high.
The varsity girls game will begin at 6 p.m., with the Lady Hornets hoping to once again lay claim to the Shootout trophy. They’ll be going for the program’s ninth straight win over the Lady Panthers dating back to Dec. 15, 2006. That includes a 42-36 win at Benton on Nov. 22.
The retooled Lady Hornets, with just one returning starter back from last year, are 6-4 so far under new head coach Brad Matthews. They come into the game off a 64-46 thumping of the Lady Hamilton Lady Wolves on Tuesday.
In the previous meeting with the Lady Panthers, Bryant forced 23 turnovers and, behind 13 points each from junior guards Kiara Moore and Logan Davis and 10 off the bench by sophomore post Taneasha Rhode, put together a run late in the third quarter and early in the fourth in which they turned a 24-23 lead into a 33-23 advantage. Benton rallied to within 3 in the final minute but Bryant held on for the win.
Benton was led by Korie Parker who had 13 points before fouling out late in the game. Bailey Gately added 10.
At around 7:30 p.m., the varsity boys will take the floor. In the first meeting between the teams at Benton, the Hornets ended a run of frustration that Bryant boys teams had endured against Panthers teams since Dec. 16, 2005, a stretch that covered a 11-game stretch. The 48-39 win was one of three wins in six games for the Hornets who come into the game off a 58-31 rout over the Lake Hamilton Wolves on Tuesday.
The Hornets may be a different team than the one that faced the Panthers earlier however. Injuries kept Bryant’s inside duo, 6-7 Quinton Motto and 6-3 Zach Cambron, out of the Lake Hamilton game and render them questionable for tonight’s game.
So it may be a David and Goliath match-up size wise as Benton boasts a pair of powerful trio of inside players including 6-8 Graham Gardner and 6-6 Josh Bowling. Against Lake Hamilton, Bryant started four players under six-feet (Marcus Wilson, Jordan Griffin, C.J. Rainey and Anthony Black) along with 6-3 junior Jalen Hewett.
In the previous meeting, Cambron led the Hornets with 12 points and Motto finished with 8 points and 15 rebounds. Benton’s swingman Ricky Gipson led all scorers with 16 points while Gardner and Bowling — both in foul trouble — failed to score.
If the Hornets can forge a win, it would be the first time they’ve swept the Panthers in a season’s home-and-home contests since 2001-02 (though there were a couple of years since then that the teams only played once.