Saturday, November 18, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe girls dominate Benton

Leader sports editor

A totally dominant second quarter gave the Beebe girls a big-enough halftime lead to experiment a little in the second half. The experiment didn’t go as well, but the Lady Badgers till hung on for a comfortable 56-44 victory over Benton on Tuesday in the season opener at Badger Arena.

The Lady Badgers struggled from the floor in the early going, but their defense remained solid. Beebe led just 11-7 at the end of the first quarter, but then the defense went from solid to shut down.

“Our offense took a little bit to get going but I was really proud of the way we played defensively,” said Beebe coach Greg Richey. “We were able to get a pretty good lead in the half and that gave us a little room to work on some things in the second half. I thought the way the officiating changed at halftime kind-of hurt our ability to really get into what we were trying to do, but overall I’m pleased with the win. I thought it was a good start.”
There was a bit of question mark going into the game.

It would be Beebe’s first game in three seasons without Libby Hill, the team’s leading scorer from last year. She suffered a back injury just before the start of the season that will have her on the bench most of the first semester games.

But after the early shooting struggles, Beebe began to score well. Benton had no answer for senior Katie Turner. She played post most of the time, but when point guard Abbie Henley got into foul trouble, Turner seamlessly took control of those duties as well.

Turner missed most of last season with a torn ACL, and is playing 100 percent healthy for the first time since that injury.

“She looks like a totally different player,” Richey said. “Even after she came back (last year) she wasn’t 100 percent. But she’s confident with it now. She’s moving well. She’s strong and can handle the ball. She looked great tonight, and I expected her to.”

The second-quarter run started with a long possession. Turner went to the line and made 1 of 2 free throws, but her miss was rebounded by sophomore Hannah Gammill, and she went to the line. Gammill missed both foul shots, but her second miss was pulled down by Turner, who made a nifty interior pass to Riley Bridges, who scored for a 14-7 lead.

Turner then got steals on back-to-back Benton possessions. She took one the distance for a layup, and passed to Gammill for another, giving Beebe an 18-7 lead and forcing Benton to call a timeout.

It seemed to help momentarily. The Lady Panthers scored on the ensuing possession Katie Morrow hit a mid-range jumper. Benton then got a stop, and post player Maci Jones was fouled at the other end. She made 1 of 2 foul shots to make it 18-10 with four minutes left until halftime, but it was the last point Benton would score in the quarter as well. The Lady Badgers (1-0) scored finished the first half on an 11-0 run that sent them into the locker room with a 29-10 lead.

Richey and Henley were the only two players in the game with two fouls at the break, but Beebe was called for eight fouls in the third quarter, two each on Richey and Henley that put both players on the bench for most of the rest of the game.

It also thwarted any rhythm the game might have reached. Beebe’s biggest lead was 40-18 at the end of the third quarter. Benton then far exceeded its 18-point total in three quarters, with 26 in the fourth quarter alone.

“We were playing a lot of kids by then and they had a couple shooters get hot,” Richey said. “You’d like to finish better, but I’m not too worried about it. That wasn’t our regular lineup and we weren’t doing our regular stuff. We tried to run a zone for a little bit. We haven’t practiced it much and we probably won’t do it a lot. We were just trying to look at some different things.

“Turner had a complete performance. She finished with 20 points, five rebounds, four steals, four assists and three blocked shots. Richey had 11 points despite limited playing time. Gammill finished with eight points and a game-high seven rebounds, and Bridges added another eight points off the bench.

Makenzy Davidson led Benton (0-3) with 11 points while Kennedy Stringfellow came off the bench to score nine. Beebe was 2 for 5 from 3-point range while Benton hit 9 of 16 overall, including 6 of 8 in the fourth quarter.

Free throw shooting was bad for Benton (7 of 14), and horrid for Beebe (6 of 18).