On paper, Bentonville entered as the easy favorite against East Newton.
The Lady Tigers had won the previous two Neosho Holiday Classic championships and started off a bid for a three-peat with a 53-36 victory on Wednesday afternoon in the first round of pool play in the 58th annual Neosho Holiday Classic at Neosho Middle School.
“They are a very talented and definitely a very physical and athletic team,” East Newton coach Marty Rinehart said. “If you count in Northwest Arkansas, they are one of the best teams in the area.”
While struggling a bit in the first quarter, Bentonville (10-0) built a seven-point lead after the first quarter, but flexed their offensive muscles from there.
Bentonville, a 7A school, held East Newton (4-5) scoreless for nearly six minutes in the first quarter and built a 7-0 lead in the meanwhile.
The Lady Patriots didn’t get on the board until Ellie White’s basket with 1 minute, 51 seconds left in the quarter, making it 7-2.
Momentum to carry over into the second quarter was halted when Taylor Lee hit a running jumper at the buzzer, making it 9-2. Bentonville built a double-digit lead midway through the second quarter, when Lee hit a 3-pointer with 5:50 left, making it 15-4.
Over the final six minutes of the quarter, the teams traded buckets but Bentonville went up 19-5 and the 14-point margin stayed at halftime.
The Lady Tigers led 24-10, as East Newton’s Kourtney Brewster hit a 3-pointer with 2:40 left, but it was the final points of the half for the Lady Pats.
East Newton cut the deficit down to 24-15 early in the third quarter thanks to a pair of free throws from Brewster and Haley Heilig drained a 3-pointer with 5:45 left.
That was as close as East Newton would get the remainder of the way, as Bentonville closed on the quarter on a 15-5 run.
Bentonville scored six straight buckets and expanded the lead to 36-15 before Brewster scored with 2:50 left to halt what was a 12-0 run.
Going into the fourth, East Newton trailed 39-20.
Bentonville, using a deep roster and a bigger height advantage, padded its lead in the fourth quarter and went up as many as 27 points in the final stanza.
Brewster’s 9 points paced East Newton. Shelby Thomlinson and Heilig both had five points each. Aubrey McDermott and Laura Hopper each had four. Whitney Thomlinson had three points, while Sara Harper, White and Emily Sorrell all had two points.
Lee led all scorers with 15, while Jordan Martin had 13.
The Lady Patriots return to action at 6 p.m., tonight against Van Buren, Ark., who had to forfeit its first game of the tournament to Pierce City due to weather conditions.