MURPHYSBORO — In a battle for first place in the River-to-River Ohio Division, Gehrig Wynn and Hamilton Page teamed up for the winning basket with 66 seconds left as Benton came from behind to beat Murphysboro, 41-37, in a boys basketball battle at Memorial Gymnasium Wednesday.
"We’ve been playing together for so long, a play like that is just a little eye contact," Wynn said. "I looked at him and pointed towards the goal. They’ve been face-guarding me and I took a backdoor cut and he found me the right spot."
Benton (18-3) improved to 5-0 in the conference, while Murphysboro — which came in tied with Harrisburg for second place — fell to 3-2.
"We traded blow for blow, we’d make a play and they would make a play, but luckily we were able to make our free throws down the stretch and hold them off," said Benton coach Ron Winemiller. "Gehrig Wynn was able to make the last two to get it to a two-possession game after we forced them into taking a tough shot and rebounding the miss."
Free-throw shooting proved critical, with Murphysboro making only 5-of-12, missing its last three, while Benton made 12-of-16, including 4-of-7 in the fourth quarter.
"We missed some free throws late," said Murphysboro coach Daryl Murphy. "We’ve been an extremely good free throw shooting team this year. Jaron Gaston and Jeremy House are 72 percent and 78, but they didn’t make them tonight. We were trading baskets for baskets and we missed our free throws and they didn’t."
Benton came back from a seven-point deficit in the first quarter to tie the score at the half. and the score was still tied after three quarters. Murphysboro retook the lead, 35-34, at the 56-second mark on a great individual effort by DeMari Greenwood.
With Benton leading 34-33, Greenwood pulled down a missed free throw and was fouled, making both free throws to give the Red Devils the lead, 35-34.
Then in a span of 46 seconds, Benton lost its two leading scorers when Parker Williams and Carson Lewis picked up their fourth fouls and were pulled out the game.
With 3:36 remaining, Page scored on an offensive rebound to give the Rangers a 37-35 lead, but Greenwood scored 17 seconds later to tie the score.
The Rangers ran the clock down 2:02 before calling a timeout to bring back Williams and Lewis.
Benton then got away with a mistake when Murphysboro pulled off a steal, but the Red Devils gave it right back when they fumbled the ball out of bounds.
The Rangers ran another 35 seconds off the clock before Page found Wynn under the basket for the game-winning layup.
Murphysboro (14-6, 3-2 Ohio) had a chance to tie the game again when Wynn missed his free throw and Jeremy House pulled down the rebound. As the Red Devils threw the ball around looking for the open shot, Page fouled House with 14.2 seconds remaining.
However, House missed the front end of the one-and-one and Wynn got the rebound and was immediately fouled. The senior calmly went to the line and swished both free throws to ice the game with 12.8 remaining.
"I looked at coach and he said, ‘you got this’, so anytime coach has confidence in me it picked my confidence up," Wynn said. "To have the coaches and the players behind it means everything."
The Red Devils got off to a fast start taking a seven-point lead with 2:57 remaining in the first quarter thanks to three 3-point baskets with two coming from House and the other by Corbin Guthman.
The Rangers found their rhythm in the final two minutes starting with a steal by Williams that led to him getting fouled and splitting his two free throws. Williams came right back with a layup to cut the lead to four before Cade Thomas drew a foul and made both his attempts to pull within two.
House canned his third 3-pointer from the left corner with three seconds remaining to give the Red Devils a 16-11 lead.
As hot as the Red Devils were in the first quarter making 6-of-11 shots overall and 4-of-5 from beyond the arc they were as cold in the second quarter missing their first 10 shots from the field, including four 3-pointers.