SPORTS>>Jacksonville girls fall to Benton in opener
Improved defense in the second half gave the Jacksonville Lady Red Devils a chance, but missed opportunities at the free-throw line left them empty-handed against Benton on Tuesday at the Devils Den in a 49-42 loss in their season opener.
The Lady Devils went 2 of 10 at the charity stripe in the final period after cutting an early 24-12 Benton lead in the first half down to 36-35 in the final six minutes. The Lady Panthersí excessive fouling, combined with the Lady Devilís improved defensive rebounding in the fourth quarter, pepped up a game that threatened to be a snoozer in the first half.
Benton also took advantage of the Lady Devilsí slow start, rushing out to a 7-0 lead before Jacksonville junior post Jessica Lanier scored inside on an assist from Crystal Washington at the 5:24 mark of the first quarter.
The Lady Panthers held on to the momentum early on by switching from zone to man defense, but a flurry by senior guard Tyra Terry cut the lead to 12-9 by the end of the opening frame.
She started with a free throw at the 1:27 mark to cut the lead to 10-5 when Benton was called for a technical foul on an illegal substitution, and followed with a jumper off the glass moments later. Julie Davis added two for Benton after that, but Terry ended the quarter with a steal and coast-to-coast lay-up to cut it to three.
The second quarter started even slower for Jacksonville. The Lady Devils went 0 for 10 through the first 5:39 of the frame, allowing Benton to build a 24-12 lead.
The Lady Devils finally began to find Lanier again on the low block. The 6-0 junior hit two inside baskets in the final 1:46 to cut the lead at halftime to 24-17.
Terry and Lanier pulled the freight in the first half, but Apollonia Sims got in the mix during the third quarter. Sims hit a basket at the 5:58 mark, and then tacked on a free throw at the 3:52 mark to make the score 29-22. She had a scary moment later on in the period when she took a head-first dive into the front of the scorerís table, but was able to shake it off and return for the final quarter.
Bentonís consistent scoring in the first half began to slow down in the third quarter. An early three-pointer by Davis and another basket at the 4:04 mark were the Lady Panthersí only points until the final 1:24. In that time, the Lady Devils played catch up with a basket by Washington and two free throws by Sherice Randell. Terry finally pulled Jacksonville to within one score when she drove the paint for a basket at the 2:27 mark to make it 29-28.
The momentum traded hands a couple of times after that. Randell hit a three-point shot with 2:32 left to play to cut it to 43-42 Benton, but the Lady Red Devils missed 6 of 6 free throws in the waning moments to allow Benton to score the gameís final six points.
Terry led the Lady Red Devils with 12 points. Lanier added seven points and led in rebounding with 10. Washington and Randell each added eight points for Jacksonville.