NASHVILLE -- Giving up several inches in length while having difficulty penetrating a matchup zone, Benton's Rangerettes dropped their opening game of the season, 45-35, to Mount Vernon Monday at the Nashville Thanksgiving Tournament.
Starting just one senior, a pair of juniors and a pair of sophomores, the young Rangerettes found themselves down 10-5 after the opening quarter. Mount Vernon stretched the lead to 26-8 by halftime as Benton could only connect on three field goals in the opening half.
"We came out sloppy and played hurried-up basketball," said Benton head coach Andy Sloan. "There were times we had open shots but we were trying to do two or three things at once. We would bounce it off our foot or not throw it where it needs to go. I guess it's a sign of a young team, but at the same time, we've got to grow up fast."
Mount Vernon went up by 20 to start the second half after a Nici Rudd steal and layup. However, Benton outscored the Lady Rams 12-8 for the remainder of the quarter to cut the deficit to 16.
Benton's main offensive weapon, senior guard Eb Casey, scored scored seven points during the third quarter push. Casey led the Rangerettes with 15 points, credited with a basket made by Rudd on Benton's end of the floor.
That came just under the six-minute mark of the final quarter. The Rangerettes trailed by just nine points, 42-33, with two minutes remaining in the game. The Lady Rams closed out the victory at the free-throw line, making 11-of-18 for the game.
"To our kids' credit, we kept fighting and playing hard. That shows the heart they have. There are going to be some bumps in the road. With all of these young kids, we've got we have to develop some team chemistry and that's going to take some time," Sloan said.
Sophomore guard Mady Wallace added nine points for Benton, who was scheduled to play the host Lady Hornettes on Tuesday. The tournament continues on Saturday following the holiday.
While Casey and Wallace attempted to dribble penetrate through Mount Vernon in the middle of the zone, they found the going tough.
"I think their length had a lot to do with it," Sloan said. "At the same time, our guards didn't attack like they needed to. We played laterally instead of vertically. We've got to get downhill on the dribble drive and kick it to our shooters and we didn't do a really good job of that. We've got to do a better job of getting to the rim and getting shots."
Benton was 13-of-46 from the floor, making just two 3-pointers. Benton was 5-of-10 from the charity stripe.
Rudd (6-1) led Mount Vernon (1-1) with 16 points. Annibelle Harrison contributed 15.