Benton Central went on a 10-3 run to open the fourth quarter, giving the Bison enough breathing room to grab a 57-47 victory over Hoosier Conference foe Twin Lakes in the semifinals of the J&C Hoops Classic at Harrison Friday night.
The victory puts the defending champion Bison into the title game Saturday at 8 p.m., while the Twin Lakes will play for third place at 6 p.m. in May Gymnasium.
Twin Lakes pushed Benton Central to the limit for the better part of three quarters behind Courtney Bowsman and Laurhen Pickett, who both had 11 points, and sophomore forward Kassie Hunt, who grabbed a whopping 18 rebounds.
But Benton Central’s 6-foot-2 sophomore center Kaylan Coffman scored eight of her game-high 16 points in the crucial fourth quarter to help lift the Bison. Katie Shields, another sophomore, added 14 before fouling out with about 3:30 left in the game.
Evonnie Payne converted several steals into easy baskets to in the second half to get Benton Central going in the right direction after Twin Lakes scored the last nine points of the second quarter to grab a 23-19 lead at halftime.
“Evonnie is our X-factor because she can do so many things for us on the floor,” Benton Central coach David Baxter said. “Her length and athleticism cause problems for other teams. She got us going in the second half with some energy, deflections and hustle. She played smart out there late with four fouls.
With Benton Central trailing 32-27 in the third quarter, Payne came up with two baskets off defensive plays to quickly cut the Indians lead. Coffman finished the quarter with a driving layup to put the Bison back on top 38-27 going into the final period.
“One of the strongest points on our team is defense, and we feel if we play good enough defense it can carry over into our offense,” Payne said. “I felt if I could go hard on defense, it could help us get the lead back.”
Twin Lakes coach Brad Bowsman said while he was happy with the overall play of his team, which led the contest the majority of the first half and portions of the third quarter, the turnover bug eventually caught up to them.
“I thought we came out with so much more energy tonight than we did the first game,” Bowsman said. “Benton Central was able to get some tips and hands on the ball and converted them into easy baskets. They also hit their free throws down the stretch as well. We just had some small lapses that hurt us.”
Baxter said the game was also a confidence boost to his young team that seems to be building an identity around its top players.
“Twin Lakes came out aggressively against us, and it look our young kids a while to match their physicality,” Baxter said. “It was a confidence booster for us to know that we can overcome some adversity and win games like this.”
Bowsman said he was pleased with the play of Hunt, who came off the bench to grab her big rebounding total.
“Kassie really got after it tonight, and I didn’t know how many rebounds she actually had,” Bowsman said. “I think she really grew in this game, and only way we can go is up right now.”