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Bulldogs drop a pair over weekend

By Scott Mees
updated: 2/10/2019 12:20 PM

The Benton Rangers held Harrisburg's comeback attempts to several short bursts Friday and picked up a 58-43 victory in SIRR Ohio Division boys basketball.

After Harrisburg opened up an early lead halfway through the first quarter, Benton used runs of 11 and seven points to take a double-digit advantage in the second period.

Jesse Lawler, Harrisburg's sophomore shooting guard, hit enough jump shots to keep his team within striking distance, but it wasn't enough.

"They are playing much better than the first time we played them," Benton coach Ron Winemiller said of the Bulldogs. "We play our first game tonight without (Carson) Lewis, and you never know how guys are going to react to that. This was a nice win."

Lewis, a starting guard, missed the game due to injury.

Will Gibbs sank a jump shot to pull Harrisburg within 31-26 early in the third quarter. The Bulldogs kept their deficit below 10 points for most of that quarter.

But Blake Stewart buried a triple right before the buzzer to give the Rangers a 46-36 lead after three quarters of play.

Benton seniors Mason Wills and Joey Craig played well, which was needed in the absence of Lewis. Craig pumped in 21 points, and Wills contributed 13.

"To have those guys play like seniors was really what we had to have tonight," Winemiller said. "(Harrisburg) made some tough shots, and I thought Lawler was tough for us to guard. I thought he was a tough matchup for us tonight."

Lawler racked up 15 points for Harrisburg (6-20, 0-9). Gibbs tallied 13 as well.

"We are young, and we are going to be better next year," said Harrisburg coach Randy Smithpeters. "Tonight, we gave up too many threes, especially in the first half. Defending those threes is basically an effort situation that we've got to do better at. If you give us some of those threes back, then we're probably right there knocking on the door. We battled, but we really struggled to get back in the game."

Brad Hammond added 11 points for Benton (19-9, 4-5).

"Hopefully, we have gotten better as the season has gone along," Smithpeters said. "We need to polish some things and be a little bit better down the stretch. We've still got some tough games left before the regional."

Both Harrisburg and Benton lost conference games on Saturday night.

Massac County edged the Rangers, 45-41. Murphysboro knocked off the Bulldogs, 53-42.

In the loss to the Red Devils, Sanders had a team-high 12 points, while Watson also finished in double figures, tossing in 11 points. Lawler netted nine points, while Bittle finished with five points. Gibbs tacked on three points and Barners tossed in two points.

Harrisburg has road games at Carterville Wednesday and at Herrin on Friday evening to round out the regular season.