Benton withstands Bryant upset bid

Photos by Rick Nation

BENTON — Against the Bryant Hornets’ 3-2 zone, the Benton Panthers went 0 for 9 from the field in the first quarter. Against Benton’s 3-2 zone, Bryant was 0 for 8 from the field in the second quarter.

C.J. Rainey led the Hornets with 8 points. (Photo by Rick Nation)

C.J. Rainey led the Hornets with 8 points. (Photo by Rick Nation)

As it turned out, the Panthers took greater advantage. The Hornets had the Panthers down 11-3 at the end of the first quarter. In the second, Benton outscored Bryant 15-0.

Despite the Panthers’ 20-0 run, however, the Hornets gave themselves a chance at the end. When Romen Martin canned a 3 from the corner with :52 left, capping an 11-2 rally, Bryant found itself trailing by just 4, 35-31.

But Benton’s Josh Bowling and Clay Anderson converted free throws down the stretch as the Panthers survived a scare with a 41-34 victory at Panther Arena.

Benton improved to 10-4 overall while Bryant fell to 4-8. It was the 7A/6A-South Conference opener for both teams.

“We were adjusting things and we did give ourselves a chance,” acknowledged Hornets coach Mike Abrahamson. “And we would’ve taken off with it if we hadn’t turned it over 20 times. You know, that’s 20 shots you don’t get.

“We competed,” he asserted. “We had some young kids survive the environment. It’s another growing experience. People get tired of hearing that. I’m tired of hearing it. I think we’re close to breaking out and being a dangerous team. But we’ve got to quit turning the ball over.”

Bowling, who finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, hit a free throw with :44.6 to go after the Hornets had to foul five times to get the Panthers to the line in the bonus. But when he missed his second shot, it left the door open a crack for the Hornets, within two 3-pointers of tying it.

Bryant's Desmond Duckworth (2) defends against Benton's Cason Maertens. (Photo by Rick Nation)

Bryant’s Desmond Duckworth (2) defends against Benton’s Cason Maertens. (Photo by Rick Nation)

But the last of those 20 turnovers occurred and Bowling was fouled again. This time, he converted twice to make it a three-possession game and the Hornets couldn’t find the range again until Martin beat the buzzer with a 3 to set the final score.

C.J. Rainey led Bryant with 8 points. Greyson Giles had 7, Martin 6. For Benton, Anderson added 10 points and Cason Maertens 9.

Rainey drained a 12-foot jumper for the first points of the game. He then fed Cedarrian Crosby for a layup. After Bowling knocked down a pair of free throws, Giles got the on the board with a stickback.

Rickey Buchanan scored inside for the Hornets and when Desmond Duckworth flushed a 3 with :39 left in the quarter, it was 11-2.

Bryant didn’t score again after that until the 5:12 mark of the third quarter when Rainey fed Caleb Strain for a bucket after Martin had absorbed a charge on the defensive end. Still, it took the Panthers until the 2:06 mark of the second quarter to pull even. Anderson’s two free throws knotted it then Maertens drained a 3 to give the Panthers their first lead of the game.

It was 18-11 at the half.

“We were getting some good shots there when we didn’t turn it over,” Abrahamson related. “And they weren’t falling. You need some of that stuff to happen. When Greyson gets two (fouls) and Cedarrian gets two and they’ve got to go to the bench temporarily, we’re just trying to maintain, just trying to get through it. I kept thinking, ‘Something’s going to fall, something’s going to fall.’ It didn’t and that just kind of takes the edge off sometimes. But the turnovers were the difference. If you cut them in half, maybe it’s a different game.

Bryant head coach Mike Abrahamson (Photo by Rick Nation)

Bryant head coach Mike Abrahamson (Photo by Rick Nation)

“We were playing the zone and doing a really good job with it,” the coach observed. “They hit three free throws in the first quarter. But they got so many layups in the second quarter because we just threw it to them. That gets their confidence going, puts a bounce in their step. Their defense started improving and we’re in foul trouble. One thing leads to another. It’s all connected.”

Baskets by Anderson and Tarek Beaugard to start the second half, pushed the lead to 22-11. After Strain’s bucket, Giles added a free throw — the first trip to the line in the game for the Hornets with 4:00 left in the third quarter (Benton was 8 of 13 from the line by that point in the game) — to make it an 8-point game. The teams traded hoops the rest of the quarter and when Kevin Hunt hit a layup off a pass from Giles, who had made a steal, it was 26-18 going into the fourth quarter.

Rainey drove the baseline for a bucket to start the final stanza and the margin was just 6.

The Panthers got a lift from a 3 by Nate Humble, just in off the bench. They pushed the lead back to 13 with 3:48 left.

Bryant’s final push started with Giles knocking down a 3 as he was fouled. Though he was unable to complete the 4-point play, he made a steal. But, on the way to the basket, he slipped on a slick spot under the Hornets’ goal.

After a timeout, Benton started milking the clock with a spread offense only to have the Hornets force three straight turnovers. Sophomore Kevin Hunt scored off the offensive glass after the first miscue. Giles pitched in with a free throw and, after Maertens missed twice at the line for Benton, Martin’s triple cut the margin to 35-31.

The Panthers settled down at that point and their parade to the free-throw line commenced.

“We’re playing our zone then because of our turnovers we’re down and then they can start to hold it,” Abrahamson recounted. “Well, then we can’t play our zone. I thought our defense was really, really good tonight though.”


Score by quarters

BRYANT          11       0          7          16 — 34

Benton            3          15       8          15 — 41

HORNETS (4-8, 0-1) 34

Duckworth 1-3 0-0 3, Rainey 4-13 0-0 8, Martin 2-6 0-0 6, Giles 2-6 2-5 7, Crosby 1-4 0-0 2, Hunt 2-2 0-1 4, Buchanan 1-1 0-0 2, Strain 1-2 0-0 2, Croom 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-38 2-6 34.

PANTHERS (10-4, 1-0) 41

Beaugard 1-4 1-2 3, Maertens 3-6 1-4 9, Bowling 4-11 8-10 16, Bowlin 0-4 0-0 0, Vincent 0-0 0-2 0, Anderson 3-6 4-4 10, Jones 0-1 0-0 0, Humble 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 12-33 14-22 41.

Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-15 (Martin 206, Giles 1-3, Duckworth 1-3, Rainey 0-1, Crosby 0-1, Strain 0-1), Benton 3-9 (Maertens 2-4, Humble 1-1, Bowlin 0-3, Beaugard 0-1). Rebounds: Bryant 24 (Giles, Duckworth 6), Benton 27 (Bowling 10). Turnovers: Bryant 16, Benton 13. Team fouls: Bryant 19, Benton 12. Fouled out: Benton Beaugard; Bryant, Crosby.

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