The Benton boys relied on athleticism and ball control late to pull away from Bishop LeBlond, winning 55-46 on Thursday at Grace Gymnasium.
It was a comprehensively stronger showing than their loss to district foe Savannah two days prior, an effort they were hoping to bounce back from.
“It means a lot. We came out bad on Tuesday and came out better today,” sophomore Allan Coy said. “We played better defense and got rebounds, we were making our shots.”
Their rebound game didn’t come easy to Benton (15-8), however. Early on, Bishop LeBlond (8-17) jumped out to a mid-second-quarter lead on the back of five first half 3-pointers.
Benton coach Gary Belcher noted the effectiveness of Bishop LeBlond’s perimeter shooting early on.
“We just wanted to get back to playing and I’ll give them credit, they were knocking down every open shot they got,” Belcher said. “It really spread us out and made it tough on us. We were able to get a little bit of distance there to keep it at a three possession game, which is key.”
Eventually, LeBlond’s shooting pace slowed down. The Cardinals entered the second half with a 31-26 lead, and kept a consistent lead until the final whistle.
Fundamental to preserving Benton’s lead was the ball handling efforts late of senior guards Chol Ater and Malique Bennett, who chewed clock in the final period with their abilities to keep a step away from Eagles defenders.
A welcome return to the lineup for the Cardinals was sophomore forward Kason Mauzey, who played limited time in his first game since their loss against Chillicothe earlier this month.
“We’re pleased to see him back on the court again,” Belcher said. “It’s been almost two weeks to the day since he got hurt, so we wanted to get him a few minutes just to remind him ‘Oh, it’s basketball again.’”
Benton plays again at home Friday against Pembroke Hill. LeBlond concluded its regular season, and will play next Tuesday in the Class 2 District 16 Tournament against East Atchison.