GOREVILLE — In the words of its coach, the Benton boys were choppy Friday night.
But that was still good enough to beat a Hamilton County team that through three quarters, had as many turnovers as points.
With Cade Thomas scoring 15 points and Parker Williams netting 11, the Rangers upped their record to 3-3 with a 51-38 decision over the Foxes at the sixth annual Goreville Invitational Tournament.
“When we had a chance to put them away offensively, we had some bad possessions,” Benton coach Ron Winemiller said. “We weren’t as efficient offensively as I’d like. But I thought our zone was good for us in the second half.”
How good was it? When the Rangers started the third quarter by not scoring for five minutes and seven seconds, they only lost two points off a 24-16 halftime lead. When they put together about 2 ½ minutes of offensive competence, they finished the quarter with an 11-3 spurt that upped their lead to 35-21.
That margin easily held up against Hamilton County (1-2), which committed a total of 23 turnovers, 21 through three quarters. In addition to dealing with a sticky zone that featured players who knew when to shoot into passing lanes, the Foxes were also hampered by foul trouble and a key absence.
Three starters drew their second foul before the first quarter was over. Matt Rubenacker, who led all scorers with 19 points, picked up his third on a charge late in the first half. Hamilton County also played without 6-2 junior forward Randy Schaefer, its leading scorer in the first two games.
Foxes coach Jeremy Varner is hoping Schaefer will be available for their two games today against Anna-Jonesboro and Johnston City.
“We just turned the ball over too many times,” Varner said. “I don’t think we had 10 field goal attempts in the first half. We played pretty good defense, but the turnovers just killed us.”
Hamilton County scored the last six points of the first quarter to forge a 10-10 tie, but Benton quickly rattled off seven unanswered points in the first two minutes of the second quarter. By the time the Foxes gained any kind of traction offensively in the fourth quarter, they couldn’t get any closer than nine points.
The Rangers made nearly 49 percent of their field goal tries, but also coughed it up 15 times. Winemiller’s goal for their games Saturday against Johnston City and Benton is to develop more continuity on the offensive end.
“Hopefully, by the time we get out of here tomorrow night, we’re a better team,” he said.