CARTERVILLE -- After suffering an overtime loss against conference rival Herrin Friday night, the Benton boys basketball team bounced back in exciting fashion Saturday.
The Rangers erased a five-point deficit with 50 seconds left in regulation and defeated Carterville, 36-35, in overtime.
"I just told the kids that we lost one Friday night that we probably should have won," said Benton coach Ron Winemiller. "We probably won one tonight that we should have lost. I thought our guys kept fighting and continued to battle. You've got to have some breaks, and they missed some free throws down the stretch. Luckily for us, we made enough shots at the end to pull it out."
Reid Baumgarte sank a 3-pointer at the buzzer in the extra session to lift Benton to an improbable, come-from-behind victory over the Lions. The Rangers trailed by five points with less than a minute to play in regulation.
"That's the kind of kid Reid is, and he wants the ball in his hands," Winemiller said of Baumgarte, a freshman guard. "They kind of all ran with (Carson) Lewis, and we used him as a decoy. Reid slipped out there behind the arc, and you knew it was good when it left his hand."
This was the one that got away from Shane Hawkins and his Carterville (10-14) squad. The Lions appeared like they were headed to a nice victory over 17-7 Benton.
Sophomore forward Eli Downen scored in the paint to give the Lions a 33-28 edge with just over a minute left. But Carterville missed the front end of three one-and-one opportunities in the final minute.
Benton's Mason Wills canned a triple with 17 seconds left in regulation, which sent the contest to overtime.
"We absolutely blew it; we blew it at the free-throw line," Hawkins said. "We did enough right to win this game. We have not played a whole lot of zone lately, and with no more preparation than we had for tonight, I thought we did a very good job defensively. But we had guys who didn't want the ball. They didn't want to go the line, and they didn't want that pressure. If we make two free throws, the game's over."
The game was tied 25-all at the start of the fourth quarter. Carterville's Luke Stritzel started and finished a 6-0 streak, and the Lions appeared to have taken control.
That's when Benton's Joey Craig made a huge play, which saved the Rangers. The senior forward converted an old-fashioned three-point play to slice the deficit to three points. Craig led all scorers with 14 points.
"Joey has been our most consistent guy all year," Winemiller said of Craig. "As a result of that, we've kind of depended on him. I thought he had a big three-point play in overtime, too, and they called a travel. Joey has been really good for us. He is undersized, but he is so athletic, and he plays hard."
Benton's defense was on point as well. The Rangers held the Lions to just two points over the final five and half minutes of regulation. Baumgarte scored Benton's only points of overtime when his 3-pointer went through the hoop as time expired.
The Rangers travel to West Frankfort Friday for round two of its Franklin County rivalry matchup in SIRR Ohio Division action. Benton won the first meeting against the Redbirds, 49-47, in mid-December.