Rangers defense keys big win
Benton picks up second 2019-20 SIRR Ohio win over Massac County, 43-34
BENTON - The Benton Rangers jumped back into River-to-River Ohio Division championship contention on Saturday night on the strength of a late game defensive stand against visiting Massac County.

Trailing 34-33 with 6:24 remaining in the contest, Coach Ron Winemiller got the stops that they needed as they shut out the Patriots the rest of the way.

Using a 10-0 run to close out the matchup, the Rangers moved to 6-3 in the Ohio and dropped Massac County to the same mark.

Benton ended up with a 43-34 win that improved the club to 23-7 overall.

Coach Joe Hosman saw his team play well enough early but struggled with two offensive dry spells that dropped them to 22-6 on the season.

The Patriots missed their final eight field goal attempts in the fourth quarter, including six of those misfires coming from the 3-point line, in the defeat.

They also went extended minutes in the second quarter without points which allowed a Rangers an early rally.

Coach Winemiller got contributions from everyone who logged minutes.

Offensively the Rangers were led by 6-foot-1 junior Reece Johnson and 6-foot-4 senior Carson Lewis.

Each of them scored 13 points in the low scoring victory.

“I thought Sweatt did a pretty good job on him with his length but Reece (Johnson) was able to create some separation offensively. I think the second half of the year he has really come into his own,” said Coach Winemiller.

Senior guard Brad Hammond hit a pair of important 3-pointers for six point on the night while sophomore Reid Baumgarte and junior Jacob Seidel each added four points.

Baumgarte and Seidel were also involved in key fourth quarter plays that helped secure the win.

This was the second victory for the Rangers over Massac County in 2019-20, with the other win coming on the road, 57-53, back on January 10th.

“We were up 34-33 with a few minutes left in the game but we just didn't play well at the end and Benton had something to do with that,” said Coach Hosman. “Some things just didn't go our way that I wished they would have gone our way. Johnson makes them a much better team this year.”

Six-foot-two junior Julian Russell led the Patriots with 12 points as he was the only Massac County player in double-digits.

Junior guard Tragen Keyes added seven points for the Pats while junior classmate Kyler McIntosh added five.

Benton held MC well under its season scoring average in the win as the Patriots were netting just over 60 points a night coming into the key Ohio contest.

Massac County got the jump on the Rangers, getting out to an early lead with Russell scoring 10 of his 12 in the first quarter.

After Lewis opened the scoring for Benton with an early 3-pointer, Russell went to work.

He scored eight of the Patriots' points in a 12-2 run that forced a Benton timeout.

Russell knocked down a pair of 3-point bombs and he also finished a fast break chance on a nice assist from senior Zach Travis.

Seniors Kaleb Ramer and Jake Mizell also converted in the run that ended with the second Russell long range bucket at 3:50 left.

Russell closed out his quarter with a baseline drive as the Patriots led 16-10 after one quarter.

After scores by Keyes and McIntosh sandwiched around a Lewis bucket, Massac County led 20-12 with 6:18.

Unfortunately for the visitors, the next six-plus minutes were an omen of things to come at the end of the game.

Benton made a scoring plus defensive run to retake the lead before intermission.

Johnson dished out a pair of assists to teammates Lewis and Baumgarte and then followed up with a nice drive in the lane for a basket.

“He (Johnson) made tough shot after tough shot. We didn't have a really good matchup on him. He could take it down low (drives) on us and shoot over us,” said Coach Hosman.

Wyatt McClintock, a 6-foot-1 junior, closed out the scoring on what turned out to be a very unconventional three-point play.

After being fouled on a shot attempt, McClintock made the first of his two foul shots.

His second one missed but the junior tracked down his own rebound and then made a nice move on a drive to the goal for a score to give the Rangers a 21-20 halftime lead.

Lewis and Hammond opened the scoring in the second half for the Rangers, with Hammond nailing down his second 3-pointer for a 26-20 advantage.

However the Patriots rallied to even the score late in the quarter.

McIntosh hit 3-of-4 free throws on two different trips to the line and both Travis and JJ Sweatt converted opportunities to tie the score at 27-27.

The two teams traded two baskets each with Lewis and Johnson scoring for the Rangers and Massac getting buckets from Keyes and Russell as the two rivals heading to the final quarter at 31-all.

Johnson got open for a drive in the lane for a short jumper to break the tie in the first minute.

Keyes then threw down a triple from the left corner at the 6:18 mark to give Massac County its final lead with 6:18 remaining.

The Rangers then held the Patriots without another point the rest of the way.

Six-foot-five junior Jacob Seidel, who was in foul trouble in the contest for the Rangers, scored his only four points of the game which turned out to be two big baskets.

He got open for a shot in the paint to give Benton back the lead.

After a Johnson drive to the basket where the junior finished strong with his left hand, Baumgarte came up big on a pair of plays that helped close out the win.

The 5-foot-10 sophomore found Seidel underneath the basket with a nice assist to extend the Rangers' lead.

He then collected a huge offensive rebound on a free throw by Lewis.

Lewis was fouled on a drive to the basket by Keyes as he converted on a drive.

His chance for a three-point play missed the mark but Baumgarte snagged the ball.

Subsequently on the same possession, Baumgarte scored on an inbounds play to close out the scoring and the win for Coach Winemiller.

“I thought all seven guys we played were the reason why we won tonight. I thought Wyatt McClintock off the bench in the first half gave us a huge boost.,” said Coach Winemiller. “Jake Seidel scores two big baskets late. Baumgarte gets a huge rebound tonight. He did the same thing at their place and he did it tonight. He (Baumgarte) is a tough guy and he does a good job of guarding and rebounding and he can make an open shot.”

The Patriots, as they had done in the second quarter, came up empty late in the game when they needed the points.

Benton ended up 19-of-46 from the field with most of the damage coming inside while Massac County finished 14-of-38 overall.

The hosts were 16-of-30 in 2-point attempts but were just 3-of-16 from long range.

The Patriots had an even rougher time from the arc, ended up 3-of-17.

The battle of the boards was a slight winner for the hosts, 26-23 and the Patriots ended up with more turnovers (12-to-8).

Five of the turnovers were coughed up in the second quarter dry spell for Coach Hosman's squad while an 0-of-8 shooting finish doomed the Patriots.

“We have been shooting the ball pretty well but they didn't go in tonight,” said Coach Hosman. “We had some open looks that just didn't go in. We are disappointed because we were trying to get a share of the conference. We have to bounce back. We have to win one (next Friday) and hope that Benton beats Murphysboro at Murphysboro, and that is a tough task.”

At the end of the weekend, the Ohio Division race is led by Murphysboro as the Red Devils picked up wins over West Frankfort (51-46 in overtime) and Harrisburg, 61-37 on Saturday afternoon.

Coach Murphy's club sits at 7-2 with both of the losses coming to Massac County.

In turn the Patriots are now in a three-way tie with the Rangers and Herrin with each team having one game left to play in the conference.

Benton will host the Red Devils next Friday while Massac County has two games left, one non-league game at Eldorado on Tuesday night and then at home against West Frankfort to close out River-to-River action on Friday.

Herrin will travel to Harrisburg to close out their league season, also on Friday night.

A Benton win over Murphysboro along with wins by Massac County and Herrin, would forge a four way split of the Ohio Division championship.

“I thought we did a better job in the second half contesting shooters. They made some shots but I thought down the stretch we did a better job getting to them,” said Coach Wiuemiller. “Every night (in the Ohio Division) is tough. If you don't come out ready to play one of the teams is going to beat you.”

Massac County

Massac County (34)
– Keyes 2 1 0-0 7, Mizell 1 0 0-0 2, Travis 1 0 0-0 2, McIntosh 1 0 3-4 5, Russell 3 2 0-0 12, Ramer 1 0 0-0 2, Sweatt 2 0 0-2 4.
2FG-11, 3FG-3, FT-3-6, PF-12.
Benton (43)
– Stewart 0 0 0-0 0, Lewis 5 1 0-1 13, Baumgarte 2 0 0-0 4, Seidel 2 0 0-0 4, McClintock 1 0 1-4 3, Hammond 0 2 0-0 6, Johnson 6 0 1-2 13.
2FG-16, 3FG-3, FT-2-7, PF-9.
Fouled Out
– None.
Technical Fouls
– None.