Earlier this season, Benton girls basketball coach Mary Ward won her 300th career game.
Friday night at Benton, she was honored for reaching that milestone after her 314th victory as her Lady Tigers defeated Bossier 79-45 in a District 1-4A game.
The ceremony was a surprise. Ward said she had no idea how many wins she had. But her husband Randy, an assistant boys basketball coach at Benton, did.
The decision was made to honor Ward after the Bossier game because that’s where she started her career as a head coach in 2003, spending three seasons there. In her final one, the Lady Kats made the playoffs for the first time in 25 years.
Ward took the Benton job in 2006, leading the Lady Tigers to 26 victories and a second-round playoff appearance in her first season.
In her 12-plus seasons at Benton, she has guided the Lady Tigers to multiple district championships and 10 playoff appearances. Benton twice advanced to the semifinals, including last season.
Her current team improved to 29-2 with Friday’s victory. The Lady Tigers are No. 1 in the Class 4A power rankings. Her career record in 15-plus seasons is now 314-205.
As Friday’s game neared its end, Benton fans held up signs with the number 300 on them. During the ceremony, Ward was joined at center court by her family, including daughter Emily and son Ryan. Members of the current team as well as former players also gathered with her for photos.
Ward said she was definitely surprised by the gesture. At first, she thought it might be a prank. Ward said she has pulled a few of those herself.
But of course it wasn’t, simply a well-deserved honor for a person who has made a big impact on high school basketball locally as both a coach and a player. In 1992, Ward led Airline to the Class 5A state championship.
Like many other games this season, Benton got off to a fast start against Bossier and led 24-4 after the first quarter.
The Lady Kats fought back in the second quarter behind 3-point shooting, cutting the lead to 12. But the Lady Tigers put 29 points on the board in the quarter and led 53-25 at the half.
Emily Ward, a senior and two-time MVP on the All-Parish team, scored 16 of her 23 points in the first half. Qua Chambers tallied 18 of her 21. Jada Anderson chipped in 11 points in the game.
As has often been the case this season, the Benton starters did not play in the fourth quarter.
Kelcee Marshall led Bossier (10-19, 5-6) with 22 points, including 13 in the second quarter. Sanaa Brown scored eight of her 10 in the second.
Benton improved to 12-0 in 1-4A. The Lady Tigers visit second-place Minden (27-3) on Tuesday with a chance to clinch the district championship. Benton won the first district meeting between the two 52-45 on Jan. 11, avenging a 50-44 loss to the Lady Tiders in the semifinals of the “Doc” Edwards Invitational on Dec. 29
If Benton loses, the Lady Tigers can still win a share of the title by defeating Northwood in their regular-season finale on Feb. 8 at home.
Regardless, Benton will likely be the No. 1 seed in Class 4A when the playoffs begin Feb. 14.
Bossier should also be in the playoffs. The Lady Kats were No. 25 in the latest power rankings. The top 32 teams generally make it.