BENTON — To see a Cliff’s Notes version of Benton’s 57-47 win over Harrisburg Thursday night, just watch the first six minutes of the game.
The Rangers banged home three treys, two by Carson Lewis and another by Cade Thomas, while Harrisburg struggled to put the ball in the basket. The Bulldogs missed their first five shots and struggled to find the range all night.
Lewis, a sophomore, drained another trey late in the first quarter, upping the Benton lead to 13-5. Benton’s lead jumped to 10 points on the first possession of the second quarter when Thomas rebounded his own miss.
By halftime, Harrisburg was staring at a 32-10 deficit.
“We couldn’t have asked for anything better,” said Benton coach Ron Winemiller of the quick start. “Offensively, we made some shots. I think Carson (Lewis) really set the tone and opened it up for some of our other guys. Defensively, I know they missed some shots, but we did a good job of rebounding their misses early in the game.”
And, those Harrisburg misses were plentiful.
“A bad start, a bad first half,” said Harrisburg coach Randy Smithpeters. “We missed good shots. If you come out and miss threes, then I question your shot selection, but we missed so many shots from the block, so many shots from the lane. We just dug a tremendously big hole.”
Harrisburg was able to cut into the lead substantially in the second half by extending its defense. The Bulldogs closed to within 46-39 with just 3:51 to play.
Will Sanders’ short jumper at 2:57 of the third quarter pulled the Bulldogs to within 11, half of the deficit at intermission. However, Hamilton Page stemmed the momentum with a 3-pointer.
“I was really happy with our effort and our strategy the second half that got us back as close as we did,” Smithpeters said. “Even as we got back close we ran into the same problem. When we got it back to single digits we missed a layup. We missed an open three out of the corner. If we hit some of the shots we normally hit, or we expect to hit, then some of the heat gets back on the Rangers a little bit more.
“We knew we had to play quality defense and we knew we had to play quality offense. We knew perhaps we wouldn’t even have enough possessions to come back from a 22-point deficit at halftime. I think we had enough quality on offense and defense to do that because we got it down to seven.”
While Harrisburg clearly had the momentum during parts of the second half, the Rangers never panicked. They never took hurried shots. On several occasions they appeared to have numbers in the offensive end, but unless there was a clear layup, they backed off and ran time off the clock.
“I thought our guys did a good job of understanding who needed to attack and who needed not to,” Winemiller said. “Cade got those two big layups down the stretch. I thought that last one was kind of the dagger.”
That layup came with 2:27 remaining after Harrisburg had cut the lead to nine points.
Thomas led a balanced Benton attack with 14 points. Parker Williams and Lewis both finished with 13 and Wynn had 10.
Isaiah Saulsberry’s 17 points paced Harrisburg. Jordan Bartok scored 13.