BENTON -- The Benton Rangers have a stable full of thoroughbreds and they jumped out of the starting gate fast and furious at Rich Herrin Gym on Thursday night.
They built a 7-0 lead, which grew to 13-5 by the end of the first quarter. The Rangers were firing on all cylinders offensively in posting a 57-47 Ohio Division victory over Harrisburg.
Benton kept up the momentum in the second quarter. The Rangers went on a 10-0 run, leading by 18 points with just under two minutes to play in the half.
And by halftime, that lead had increased to 22.
Sophomore guard Carson Lewis led the charge in the opening quarter, banging home three treys. The Rangers made seven long-range buckets in the contest while their counterparts struggled offensively in the opening half, making just four field goals.
"Carson really set the tone and opened it up for some of our other guys. Defensively, I know they missed some shots, but we did a great job of rebounding their misses early in the game," said Benton coach Ron Winemiller.
"A bad start, a bad first half. We missed some good shots," said Harrisburg coach Randy Smithpeters. "We missed so many shots in the blocks, in the lane, digging just a tremendously big hole. Even when we got it down to single digits, we had the same problem because we missed a layup and an open three out of the corner.
"If we hit a couple of those shots that we would ordinarily hit then the heat is back on the Rangers," Smithpeters said.
Harrisburg outscored Benton 19-7 in the third quarter. Dalton Lambert led a 9-0 run in the quarter with six points. Will Sanders also contributed a pair of baskets as the Bulldogs cut the deficit to 10 by quarter's end at 39-29.
In the fourth quarter, Benton spread the floor and took several trips to the charity stripe -- hitting 9-of-17 in the second half. The Rangers finished 18-of-28 at the line.
"I think our guys did a good job of understanding who needed to attack and who needed not to. Cade (Thomas) got those two layups late in the game and I thought that last one was the dagger in the game," said Winemiller.
Thomas' layup came with 2:22 left in the game after the Bulldogs had cut the deficit down to seven.
Three players scored in double figures for Benton with Thomas leading the way with 14 points. Lewis and Parker Williams added 13 each.
Isaiah Saulsberry, who led Harrisburg with 17 points, fouled out late in the contest. Jordan Bartok added 13 for the Bulldogs, who fell to 2-1 in the conference and 8-2 overall.
Benton is 8-2 overall and 3-0 in the conference.
"To be 3-0 in the conference at the Christmas break is huge," said Winemiller.
The Rangers will be off until the weekend when they participate in the Duster Thomas Hoops Classic at Pinckneyville.