It may be early January, but Friday’s Bentonville-Van Buren 7A/6A-West opener Friday had a postseason feel to it.
Before the biggest crowd at Bates Arena in at least three years, Malik Monk scored 15 of his game-high 23 points in the second half to lead the Tigers to a 51-46 win.
"We’re so pleased to get a win here," Bentonville coach Jason McMahan said. "We have so much respect for Van Buren. This was a big win for us."
Van Buren coach Randy Loyd said the crowd compared to some of the early crowds of Bates Arena, which opened in 2007.
"This may be the best crowd we’ve had tonight and that includes the state tournament here," Loyd said. "I told the players that when they look back 20 years from now, that they will remember this game. It was a well-played game by both teams."
Monk, already one of the top players in the state as a sophomore, scored seven points in a critical two-minutes stretch that saw Bentonville (7-3, 1-0) erase a 44-43 deficit to take the lead for good in the final 90 seconds.
"Those finishes at the basket were just amazing," McMahan said. "We tried all night to get him to attack, attack, attack. He was clutch down the stretch."
Van Buren (10-2, 0-1) had taken a 44-43 lead with 1:31 left on a 3-pointer by Quashaun Kursh. On the ensuing possession, Monk drove to the basket and scored with 1:21 left for a 45-44 lead. Bentonville never trailed after that.
The Pointers had one last chance at the lead when Brad Eversole missed a pair of free throws. A 3-point play by Monk put the Tigers ahead 48-44 with 58.1 seconds left.
"We had a chance to win this game," Loyd said. "The ball just didn’t bounce our way in the final minutes. We knew we had to keep the game in the 50s to have a chance and I thought we did that."
The Pointers had rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit to take its brief lead. Jake Caudle, who finished with 17 points, gave Bentonville a 36-26 lead with 3:47 left in the third period. The Tigers, though, went cold for the next 10 1/2 minutes and scored just seven points.
Mitchell Smith led the Pointers with 15 points while Jason Harms added 14.
Bentonville 48, Van Buren 27 (Women’s)
Against a team like Bentonville, the last thing Van Buren wanted to have was a prolonged scoring drought. Unfortunately for the Lady Pointers, it happened again.
The Lady Tigers, the defending conference champions, used a 13-0 run in the second quarter to take control of the game and open 7A/6A-West play with a win.
Van Buren trailed 9-2 late in the first quarter, but used a 10-0 spurt, thanks to 3-pointers from Lani Snowden, Danae Goodwin and Kaylee Sheppard, to take its first lead of the game at 12-9 with 4:40 left in the first half.
From there, Bentonville seized control of the game by scoring 13 points in a four-minute span of the second quarter to open a 22-12 lead. The Lady Tigers then scored 13 unanswered in the second half to build a 37-17 advantage midway in the third quarter.
Peyton Taylor led all scorers with 12 while Jordan Martin added 10 for Bentonville. Goodwin paced Van Buren with seven.