BENTON — It was rivalry night at Rich Herrin Gym on Friday, with defending champion Benton taking care of West Frankfort, 63-31, in a River-to-River Ohio Division boys basketball game.
"Every one of our six seniors played with poise and purpose tonight," said Benton coach Ron Winemiller. "They kept stringing stops together and sharing the basketball, and as a result, we put a lot of really good offensive and defensive possessions together. We did a great job of passing down the average shot to get the great shot."
In ceremonies before the game, Danny Johnson from the Benton Class of 1968 had his No. 14 jersey number retired, joining his son, JoJo (Class of 1992), Rich Yunkus (Class of 1967), Billy Smith (Class of 1975) and Doug Collins (Class of 1969) to have a banner hanging in the rafters.
Benton (21-3) came in sitting on top of the division while West Frankfort was on the opposite end, and when the dust settled, nothing had changed with the Rangers improving to 7-0 and the Redbirds dropping to 0-6.
"We have three to play and tonight sets up a huge week next week when we go to Harrisburg and Massac," Winemiller said.
The Rangers finished with three players in double-digit scoring, led by Parker Williams, who suffered a cut above his left eye with 2:03 remaining in the first quarter forcing him to leave the game.
The senior forward returned with 3:44 remaining in the second quarter and ended up scoring 14 of his 19 points after having to wear a headband of made of tape. Hamilton Page and Gehrig Wynn finished with 11 points each.
"I just might keep the headband as long as I don’t have to get busted open each (game) to do so," Williams said. "This was a big rival game. We knew there was gong to be a lot of people come out tonight, especially with the retirement of Danny Johnson’s jersey, so we were ready to put it them."
The Rangers jumped out to a 14-point lead with the help of three 3-point goals by Wynn, Williams and Carson Lewis. A few seconds before Lewis’ shot, Williams had to leave the game after he was bleeding from over his left eye after a collision with Bradlee Croslin.
West Frankfort (4-18) shot just 12-of-50 from the field, including 4-of-24 from beyond the arc, while the Rangers shot 19-of-41 overall and 4-of-14 from the three.
"They are very athletic and very skilled," said West Frankfort coach Kevin Toney. "Sounds like a broken record, but they can all handle the ball, pass the ball and you have to get out and guard the three even on Williams. We have to do a better job of making post entry passes and not to just Bradlee Croslin, but to anyone. We have to attack the basket and not be content with just taking perimeter shots."
The Redbirds cut the lead to 10 on a layup by C.J. Johnson and a putback by Croslin with 0.8 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Benton quickly extended the lead back to 14 when Wynn stole the ball and fed Lewis for a layup and Hamilton Page scored on a fast break layup to open the second quarter.
Johnson got two of those points back on a putback, but both sides went without a basket for the next 2:29, until Keagan Thrash sank a 3-pointer from the right corner to cut the lead eight. Johnson finished with 19 points.
Forty seconds earlier, Brett Bonenberger, who replaced Williams in the first quarter, injured an ankle when he was fouled. He missed both free throws and was replaced by Williams after Thrash’s shot.
The Rangers held an 11-point lead at the half and increased it to 21 heading into the fourth quarter.