High school girls basketball: Benton advances to quarterfinals, hosts S. Lafourche Thursday

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The Benton Lady Tigers jumped out to a big early lead and were never threatened in a 67-47 victory over the Plaquemine Green Devils in the second round of the Class 4A girls basketball playoffs Monday night at Benton.

Benton (32-3), the No. 1 seed, will host No. 8 South Lafourche (23-7) in the quarterfinals Thursday at 6 with a trip to the LHSAA’s Marsh Madness in Alexandria on the line. Plaquemine closed its season 15-13.

For the second game in a row, Benton played without two-time All-Parish MVP Emily Ward. Ward, who suffered a sprained left ankle on Feb. 12 during practice, was dressed out and has been cleared to play, Benton coach Mary Ward said.

“She could’ve played tonight but we were trying to save her,” Ward said. “Just watching game film I thought we could play pretty good without her.”

The fact that Benton has won two playoff games in convincing fashion with a first-team All-State player having to sit out is a testament to the depth of talent the Lady Tigers are fortunate to have.

Benton scored the first nine points of the game and led 16-1. Junior guard Jada Anderson scored 10 points, including two 3-pointers, in the first quarter.

The Lady Tigers led 20-5 at the end of the first quarter and 33-15 at the half. Benton led by as many as 32 in the fourth. To their credit, the Green Devils didn’t quit. They hit three late 3-pointers and scored some inside to make the score respectable.

Anderson led the Lady Tigers with 23 points. Qua Chambers added 15.

Ward, Chambers and Anderson have carried most of the scoring load this season. But Benton’s defensive play has contributed just as much to the team’s success with players like Abbie Wynn, Dana Wainwright, Abby Hines and Alisa Harris making their presence felt along with their teammates.

Wynn fought hard for numerous rebounds inside against a physical Plaquemine front line.

The Lady Tigers put a lot of pressure on the Green Devils early, forcing turnovers they turned into points.

“The code word for this game was swarming,” Ward said. “We wanted to have that swarming defense everywhere we went. The girls just kept up. Jada and Qua up top, and once you get past them you’ve got that back line playing tough defense. They just do such a great job.”

Ward would of course have loved for her daughter to have been able to play the first two playoff games, but she said Emily’s teammates benefited in at least one respect.

“You always try to look at the positives,” she said. “What better way to have these other kids get valuable minutes right before we start playing deep in the playoffs.”

One of those was freshman guard Ella Kate Malley, who scored seven points. Malley also plays soccer and was named second-team All-District.

“She’s got some great things coming, but these are just valuable minutes for her,” Ward said.

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