This story originally ran in the Press Argus-Courier on Jan. 12.
The Bentonville Lady Tigers lived up to their lofty regards on Jan. 8.
They jumped to a quick lead and led start to finish in a 61-35 win over Van Buren at Clair Bates Arena in Van Buren’s home 6A-West opener.
Bentonville (13-2, 2-0) is ranked fifth overall in the first Arkansas Sports Media poll of 2019.
“I was real pleased with the level of effort, coming down here and playing at Van Buren’s gym,” Bentonville head coach Tom Halbmaier said. “It’s always difficult. It’s one of my least favorite gyms to play in. They always do a great job of taking you out of your rotation and things of that nature.”
Bentonville led 9-1 with 2:52 left in the first quarter,14-9 after the quarter and 28-14 at the half behind 6-4 sophomore Maryam Dauda, who had 11 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in the first half.
Bentonville also hit eight 3-pointers, though, by six different players.
“She’s a handful, a very good player but she becomes exponentially more impactful with the number of kids they have that can really shoot the 3-pointer in volumes,” Van Buren head coach Chris Bryant said. “There are five or six of them that shoot a very high percentage. They’re good shooters, and they’re getting great shots.”
Van Buren (7-8, 0-2) made a run in the third quarter. Behind 3-pointers by freshman Brooklyn Kannady and Rylee Ryan, and two of them by Keyleigh Evans, the Lady Pointers were within 38-28 with 3:28 left in the quarter.
“There were spurts where we played competitive basketball with them where we could string together two or three buckets or two of three stops,” Bryant said. “They were few and far between.”
Dauda answered on Bentonville’s next possession, scoring on a lob pass underneath, getting fouled and canning the free throw to push the Lady Tigers back up, 41-28.
“They’re a very good basketball team,” Bryant said. “They have a lot of pieces. They shoot the ball well. They can be every efficient inside. They’re really good on the offensive boards.”
Bentonville hit 23-of-38 attempts from the field, including 12 of 16 in the second half. The Lady Tigers also held a 32-15 edge on the boards.
“We hit some shots and kind of got ahead of them a little bit,” Halbmaier said. “They missed shots, and gave us that lead we had going into halftime.”
Dauda finished with 17 points, 12 boards, including five offensive rebounds, and four blocked shots. Guard Avery Hughes added 16 points for Bentonville.
Kannady led Van Buren with 14 points.
BENTONVILLE 49, VAN BUREN 33
Bentonville used an 11-0 run in the second quarter to take a comfortable lead and go on to the conference win.
Bentonville (12-3, 2-0) led 13-6 after a quarter before Logan Brothers scored to open the second quarter for Van Buren. Thane Spencer and Colton Simmons drained consecutive 3-pointers for Bentonville. After Gary Phillips hit a trey for Van Buren, Bentonville went on an 11-0 run within a four-minute span to open up a 30-11 lead before taking a 30-12 lead at the half.
Van Buren made a run in the third quarter. After Connor Deffebaugh scored to open the second half for Bentonville, Brayden Gilmore scored three straight baskets to cut Van Buren’s deficit to 32-18 just 1:55 into the second half.
Trent Ball added a 3-pointer for Van Buren, and after Phillips and Gilmore combined for four free throws, Van Buren (4-10, 0-2) was within, 37-25, with 2:23 left in the third quarter.
Bentonville went back up, 39-26, heading into the fourth quarter and put the game away.
Simmons and Michael Shanks led Bentonville with 13 each.
Phillips scored 13 points for Van Buren. Gilmore added 10.