BENTON — The Pinckneyville Panthers set the tone early offensively and defensively to beat Sesser-Valier in the first game on day three of the 49th annual Benton Invitational Tournament Friday night. Pinckneyville won, 75-29, and they remain undefeated within the tournament.
Reid Harriss led the Panthers with 15 points followed by AJ Keith with 11 points and Karsen Konkel with 10. Tony Kistner led the Red Devils with eight points.
“I think playing against a team like Sesser-Valier is a good thing,” said Pinckneyville coach Bob Waggoner. “When you play against an opponent that isn’t as good you tend play down to their abilities and you don’t play up to yours, but tonight we stayed focused and did the things we’re good at. We shot the ball with confidence and played aggressively and that’s the mark of a good team.”
The swarming Panthers came out of the gate with a stifling defense that forced 10 turnovers in the first quarter and a fast-break offense that made 15 of 23 shots in quick order to take a 9-0 lead right off the bat. After the Red Devils scored, the Panthers finished the quarter on a 25-0 run, including a 3-pointer by Reid Harriss to jump out to a 34-2 lead.
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“We played loose and really pushed the ball with pace,” Waggoner said. “I thought we reacted well with anticipation to get a lot of tips with hands on the ball. I thought Hunter Smith (played) really played well.”
The Red Devils opened the second period with a basket and added five more, including a 3-pointer by Kyler Willmore, to get some offense going making 6-of-11 shots after making just 1-of-6 in the first quarter.
The Panthers shot 10-of-15 from the field in the second quarter, including Hunter Smith making a 3-pointer, to take a 56-15 lead at the half.
The third quarter started the running clock and still the Red Devils were able to make the most of their opportunities making 4-of-5 shots to score nine points in the quarter.
The Panthers were also limited on their opportunities, but made 5-of-7 shots to extend their lead to 69-24 heading into the fourth quarter.
With the win, Pinckneyville claims its fourth game in a row overall to improve to 18-3 and its third game of the tournament to improve to 3-0.
The Panthers will play Vandalia at 11 a.m. in Saturday’s morning session and will finish the tournament in the feature game against Benton at 8:30 p.m.
“It will be a tough day with Vandalia and Benton - two very good ballclubs - so we need to be on our game Saturday,” Waggoner said.
Sesser-Valier fell to 5-13 and 0-3 in the tournament and will play Hamilton County at 10 a.m. and Vandalia at 7 p.m. Saturday.