Before Goreville Invitational MVP Carson Lewis stepped to the free throw line in the closing seconds of a tie game with the host Blackcats, Benton coach Ron Winemiller reminded his only returning starter from a year ago about a game last season with Murphysboro.
In that game, the Rangers drained a pair of free throws late and then committed a foul that gave the Red Devils a victory.
Carson was fouled driving the lane with 2.3 seconds left Saturday night. Following a Goreville time out, he calmly stepped to the charity stripe and gave Benton a 51-50 lead. Winemiller called a time out and told Lewis to intentionally miss the second free throw -- taking a chance that history would not repeat itself.
"That's all on coach. He's the mastermind behind all of that," Carson said.
"I told him to miss the second shot," Winemiller confirmed. "The guys did a good job of executing that. They didn't get the shot off. If you get beat on a half-court shot, you get beat on a half-court shot. The last thing I told them before we broke huddle was 'Don't foul,' and they said, 'Like Murphysboro' so they knew where we were coming from."
Lewis missed the free toss, the ball caromed off near the right corner. A Goreville player retrieved the ball, made a half court pass to a teammate, who attempted a
game-winning shot. The shot was short and wouldn't have counted anyway, according to an official who waved it off.
Winemiller said the Rangers wanted the ball in the hands of Lewis at the end.
"Yeah, we got Carson isolated at the top and let him go make a play. He did and drew the foul," Winemiller said. "Other than Lewis everybody is new and so to be able to go through a lot of different experiences this week, it's going to be very beneficial to this team."
Lewis, Brad Hammond and Grant Gordon all scored 10 points in the tournament finale. Goreville's Luke Brown scored 10 of his game-high 12 points in the final quarter.
The Rangers trailed most of the first half, taking just their second lead of 24-23 with 90 seconds to go in the half. They held a 27-25 lead at halftime. Their largest lead of 48-39 came on a Lewis drive in the lane to start the fourth quarter.
The Blackcats tied it up at 50-all at the 2:25 mark on a Landon Albright three-point play. The Rangers ran clock the final 45 seconds, calling a time out with 19 seconds that set up the Lewis drive to the bucket and subsequent game-winning free throw.
In addition to Lewis being named the tournament MVP, Hammond and Joey Craig were also all-tournament selections.
"I feel like we learned a lot about our team. I wanted to know about what we are about. I felt like we needed to learn about ourselves and I think we did this week," Winemiller said.
The Rangers captured their fourth straight Goreville title, sharing it with A-J a year ago. Benton improved to 23-2 over the last five years of the tournament and 26-7 overall.
On Tuesday, the Rangers defeated A-J, 45-31. Lewis poured in 22 points on six three-point baskets and Hammond added 13.
On Friday, Benton defeated Hardin County, 64-31. Lewis and Craig paced the Rangers with 16 and 12 points, respectively.
And in an earlier game on Saturday, the Rangers defeated Hamilton County, 46-38. Hammond was the leading scorer with 13 points. Mason Wills added eight and Gordon, Lewis and Craig all had seven points.
Benton starts conference play Friday at Ohio Division favorite Herrin.