BENTON — Balanced scoring and tough, physical defense enabled Pinckneyville to exact revenge on Benton on Saturday night and share the title of the 45th Benton Invitational Tournament.
Four players reached double figures for the Panthers as they dumped the Rangers 57-42, giving each team a 4-1 mark in the round-robin event. Tournament rules didn’t include a tiebreaker.
J.C. Moll paced Pinckneyville (20-2) with 13 points. Dawson Yates and reserve forward Devin Kitchen each tallied 12, while Tanner Spihlmann kicked in 11 points. The Panthers led by double figures most of the second half and secured their win with 11-of-13 foul shooting in the fourth quarter.
Gehrig Wynn scored a game-high 17 points for Benton (17-3) and Parker Williams hit for 15, but they got very little help. Their other teammates combined for just 10 points, which helped Pinckneyville avenge a loss to the Rangers last month in the Panthers' tournament.
Benton could have drawn within five points early in the fourth quarter, but Williams missed on an open 3-pointer. Kitchen then knocked down the Panthers’ eighth 3-ball of the night for a 44-33 advantage. They simply protected the ball and their lead from that point.
Pinckneyville improved to 50-5 in the last 11 BITs. It was only the seventh time since the event switched to a round-robin format in 1980 that there have been co-champions.
In front of a raucous crowd that almost filled Rich Herrin Gym, Benton landed the first heavy punch. After Pinckneyville’s Grant Jausel initiated scoring, the Rangers rattled off the next nine points. Parker Williams canned an elbow jumper for a 9-2 lead.
The Panthers came up with quite an answer. Jausel and J.C. Moll teamed up for a 10-0 run over the final 2:44 of the first quarter, with Moll stealing and scoring to beat the buzzer and provide Pinckneyville with a 12-9 lead.
It became a 17-2 spurt when Dawson Yates converted a four-point play early in the second quarter. Benton finally regained some traction later in the period, but Devin Kitchen drove for a layup with eight seconds left in the half for a 28-21 lead at intermission for the Panthers.