MURPHYSBORO — Senior guard Kayla Walker become the sixth player in school history to surpass 900 points as Murphysboro held off Benton, 50-36, in a River-to-River Ohio Division girls basketball game on Tuesday.
"I had no idea I was near 900 points," Walker said. "I started as just a slasher to the basket, but every year I’ve gotten more green lights for certain things as the coaches gained confidence in me. I’m really proud to play with this team."
Walker came into the game needing 10 points and scored her 900th point as part of a jumper from the lane with 1.6 seconds remaining in the first half. Walker finished with a double-double, adding 10 rebounds while also having three steals and a blocked shot.
Murphysboro (11-5, 4-1 SIRR Ohio) led by 21 points near the end of the third quarter and had to hold off a late Benton rally that cut the lead to 10 with 3:11 remaining to solidify its second place standing in the conference rankings.
"I thought we came out and ran our offense and looked really good in the first half, and then it looked like we didn’t know how to play basketball in the second half," said Murphysboro coach Keith Jones. "We’ve been in a rut lately, winning one and losing one, so hopefully we can make it two in a row when we go to Pinckneyville on Thursday and start to put a streak together."
Walker scored the first points of the game on a jumper from left side of the lane at the 1:12 mark. With 3:25 remaining in the first quarter, she scored on a layup while being fouled and made her free throw.
With 6:42 remaining the second quarter, Walker scored on a pull-up jumper, and 41 seconds later stole the ball and drove the length of the court to score to leave her one point shy of 900.
Walker scored her final basket with 2:28 remaining in the third quarter off a steal by Clarese Hibbler-Johnson.
The game was tied 4-4 when Arie Ciganovich swished the first of four 3-pointers to start a 14-2 run to close out the first quarter with the Red Devils holding a 12-point lead.
Ciganovich added her second from beyond the arc with 2:47 remaining in the quarter and hit her third in a row at the 41-second mark of the second quarter. She sank her fourth with 28 seconds remaining in the first half. Ciganovich led the game with 18 points.
Murphysboro extended its lead to 19 points with 5:32 remaining in the first half and held onto that lead at the half.
Benton (5-10, 1-3 SIRR Ohio) cut the lead back to 15 at the beginning of the third quarter, but the Red Devils made a late run, extending their lead to 21 points on a layup by Ciganovich with 1:37 left in the quarter.
"We had an ok start the first four minutes, but then we got buried in the second quarter," said Benton coach Andy Sloan. "We just gave up too many points. We’ve done that in the past and then tried to come back and have been successful at times. Credit our kids for continuing to play hard, but that’s not how you play basketball. Second half we switched Ebriessa Casey to cover Walker and held her to two points and that was a positive."
The Rangerettes then made a run, cutting the lead to 16 on a 3-pointer by Mady Wallace 16 seconds later, and a layup by Zoe Carlton with 1.8 seconds left heading into the fourth quarter. Wallace led Benton with 15 points.
After Island Dooley split a pair of free throws to open the fourth quarter for the Red Devils, the Rangerettes took up where they left off going on a 9-2 run, highlighted by a 3-pointer by Casey off a steal by Wallace to cut the lead to 10 with 3:11 remaining.
Murphysboro held off the rally when the Rangerettes were forced to foul and made 4-of-6 free throws to seal the win.
The game had a strange occurrence, with the Rangerettes not going to the free throw line. The Red Devils committed only five fouls for the game.