The Benton Academy Lady Raiders finished out their basketball season after falling to Central Holmes 49-24 at the AA North State Tournament hosted at Marshall Academy.
The Benton girls did not have a strong lead at the opening of the game, with the Lady Trojans putting 20 points on the board before the Lady Raiders could score a basket.
Lady Raiders Coach Casey Arbuckle said that the girls were the #4 seed in the bracket going up against the #1 seed, and just couldn't get into any kind of rhythm in the game.
"I am extremely disappointed with the outcome of our postseason performance because I had bigger hopes and goals for this group," she said. "As a coach that is something that will push me in my off season preparation next year. It is something that will drive me to give next year's group more success than this year's. It is something we will learn and grow from."
Arbuckle said that despite the loss, she is very proud of the growth the team made over the season.
"I am so proud of this group's growth," she said. "They won 14 games this season, including four conference games, making it the most successful basketball season in six years, and they made it to the North State Tournament for the first time in six years."
Arbuckle added that the team averaged 45 points a game, but their strong suit was their aggressive defense.
"I am so proud of their growth on and off the court," she said. "None of it would have been possible without the group of seniors we had this year."
The four seniors Arbuckle mentioned were Avery Eldridge, Catie Merrell, Madilyn Manor, and Jaeleigh Ann Girard, each of whom contributed a great deal to the team's success.
"Avery grew into a lights-out defender with the quickest feet and hands on the team," she said. "Jaeleigh stepped up into a huge offensive threat for us this year, she was lethal in the corner making strong drives and shooting 48 percent on the season in her jump shots from the short corner. Catie was plagued with injury this year, but still fought on to be our leader in the paint. She ran point guard for us when we needed her to, she ran post when we needed her to, she guarded the main post player of every team and although smaller, she was always tougher. Madilyn led this group day in and day out not only as their point guard, athletic defender, and on the scoreboard but with her heart and passion. At all times, no matter the opponent, Manor’s grit and determination was palpable and contagious. These four led with their talent and skill, and it will be sorely missed in the years to come."
Arbuckle said that as a coach she could not be more thankful for the impact and example the four girls will leave behind for the program.
"We are trying to create a culture of competitiveness, confidence, hard work, and success, and I believe this senior class sparked that very culture," she said. "We are going to take that spark and continue to build with our younger athletes."
Moving forward Arbuckle said she will be working with their current 8th, 10th, and 11th graders who are moving up next year.
"I am beyond excited to see what they have in store for us in the years to come," she said.