Getting that first victory of the basketball season can boost confidence heading into the long season.
While it wasn't picture perfect, the Benton Rangers held off pesky Johnston City to post a 60-49 victory at the Goreville Invitational Tournament.
"I thought at times we played well. And at times I thought we looked like a very inexperienced team," coach Ron Winemiller said in his post-game interview. "I thought for the most part, we were about like what I thought."
Benton built up a seven-point lead in the opening quarter and built that up to a 10-point advantage at quarter's end.
The team's lone returning starter, junior guard Carson Lewis, ignited the Rangers in the opening quarter scoring 15 of his game-high 18 points.
"I was glad to see Carson get us off to a good start and get our legs underneath us and those other guys in the third and fourth quarters stretched it back out," Winemiller said.
Johnston City opened the second quarter with three straight three-point baskets -- two from Houston Hall and another from Dylan Fischer. And when Chase Selby hit a layup, the Indians grabbed a 26-25 lead.
Two free throws from Grant Gordon and a Joey Craig rebound basket got Benton back on top, 29-26. The Indians hit another bucket before the half ended for a 29-28 contest at the break.
Johnston City held a 40-37 lead with 2:15 left in the third quarter. The Rangers scored the final seven points of the quarter, including a three-ball from Brad Hammond, to take a 44-40 lead into the final quarter.
The Rangers continued the 12-0 run in the first 2 ½ minutes of the final stanza, jumping out to a 49-40 lead. Craig, who had six points in the quarter and 15 total, hit a bunny underneath and Hammond banged home another trey to give the Rangers a 12-point lead just under the four minute mark.
Hammond contributed 14 points for the Rangers, who were 17-of-26 from the charity stripe and hit 45 percent of its field goals.
Selby led the Indians with 15 points and Hall added 14.
Winemiller was pleased with the defensive effort displayed, especially in the second half.
"I didn't think our transition defense was very good in the first half but it was much better in the second half. It's the first game … I thought we did a much better job on Selby not letting him catch and get easy looks. For the first game, we did some good things."
Benton was scheduled to play defending champion Anna-Jonesboro on Tuesday. The Wildcats defeated Hamilton County, 51-37, in the tournament's opening game. The Rangers will play Hardin County at 7 p.m. Friday, the Foxes at 10 a.m. Saturday and the host Goreville Blackcats at 7:30 p.m., also on Saturday.