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— When it comes to the Benton County Invitational, Siloam Springs has been pretty automatic for a while now.

That proved no different this year.

The No. 1-seeded Lady Panthers won their seventh consecutive county tournament title Saturday with a 49-37 win against Gentry in the senior girls championship at Panther Arena.

“We told the kids in the locker room and then reiterated after the game that this is kind of a tradition,” Siloam Springs coach Debbie Sharp said. “We wanted to win it. We were the top seed so people felt like we should win it. But it’s not done until we get it done.”

Laken Grigg scored 14 points and tournamentMost Valuable Player Shelbi Honeycutt added 12 points for the Lady Panthers (5-0).

Siloam Springs took an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter only to watch Gentry surge ahead behind the hot shooting of guard Kelsea Whitten.

Whitten drained four 3-pointers in the first half and Gentry (7-1) led 21-16 with 5:18 left in the second half.

“We knew we were going to have to make quite a few perimeter shots,” Gentry coach Tim Rippy said. “Their length was going to be a problem for us. We started out the game kind of slow moving the ball. In the second quarter I thought we did a better job of moving the ball and looking for our shooters.”

Siloam Springs 6-foot-4 center Ashley Adams swished a jump shot to pull within 21-18 and Grigg sank a trey to tie the game.

Grigg scored on a drive inside to give Siloam Springs the lead for good. The Lady Panthers led 25-21 at the break.

The second half belonged to Siloam Springs. Honeycutt and Grigg each hit 3-pointers as their lead grew to 10 points in the third quarter. Siloam Springs led by as many as 18 in the second half.

Whitten, after hitting four 3-pointers in the first half, only got one trey inthe second half and finished with 15 points.

“Siloam Springs may be the most talented team we’ll see all year,” Rippy said. “I thought we battled hard. We didn’t do a good job in the second half. You’ve got to give them credit. They did a good job of shutting us down.”

The loss was Gentry’s first of the season after seven straight wins to open the season.

“We watched Gentry all summer so I knew what kind of heart they have and how capable they were of shooting the basketball,” Sharp said. “Their effort did not surprise me at all. We knew they were going to give their best effort. I commend them on both ends of the floor.Coach Rippy had a great game plan. The kids stepped up and executed well.”

The last team to beat the Lady Panthers in the county tournament was the 2002 Gentry Lady Pioneers coached by Norman Mitchell.

Sports, Pages 7 on 12/09/2009

Print Headline: Lady Pioneers fall to Lady Panthers

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