SPRINGDALE -- Fans waited in a long line outside Springdale Har-Ber's Wildcat Arena on Saturday afternoon, hoping to get in and catch a glimpse of Malik Monk in the Class 7A boys basketball state tournament.
The ones who made it in encountered a humid, standing-room-only setting, but Monk made it worth it.
The junior turned in several highlight-reel plays, surpassed a milestone and scored a team-high 28 points to lead Bentonville to a 64-54 victory over Springdale in the quarterfinal matchup.
The Tigers (20-5) beat Springdale for a third time this year, this one sending them to the program's third consecutive semifinals appearance in the state tournament.
"It's big for our kids, and it's exciting to play on this stage," Bentonville Coach Jason McMahan said. "It's what we want to do. We want to get over the hump [and get to the title game]."
Monk surpassed 2,000 career points in the game, finishing the evening with 2,007. He came out aggressive early in front of the big crowd, scoring 12 points in the first five minutes.
But he went to the bench after being whistled for a technical foul, his second personal, late in the first quarter. Springdale trimmed an early 16-6 deficit to one but couldn't re-take the lead as Bentonville led 31-26 at halftime.
"Jordan Hemphill was really big there attacking the rim and creating shots," McMahan said. "That was a big moment for us to maintain that lead. We have a lot of confidence in those guys we bring off our bench to be able to do those things."
Springdale senior Chris Owens tied his career high by scoring a game-high 30. He was vital in keeping the Bulldogs in the game, asserting himself after Monk went to the bench.
But Springdale (11-17) had one of its worst shooting games of the year. The Bulldogs made just 1 of 18 from three-point range and just 11 of 20 free throws.
"We live and die by a lot of perimeter stuff," Springdale Coach Brad Stamps said. "When we're not shooting it well, it makes it difficult. We forced some at the end because we had to, but we just didn't knock them down."
Monk quickly turned a five-point halftime lead into 10 by hitting a baseline jumper and straightaway three-pointer in the opening minute of the third quarter. The Tigers continued to build the lead while holding Springdale to seven third-quarter points.
"We are, I feel like, one of the best teams at protecting people from getting to the paint," McMahan said. "Daniel Head is such a good player and did a good job."
Bentonville extended the lead to as much as 18 in the fourth quarter, with senior guard Hunter Loy leading the way. He scored 11 of his 13 in the quarter, including knocking down two key three-pointers.
Bentonville will play in the 2 p.m. Monday semifinal for a trip to the state title game.
Springdale's season ended in the second round a year after making its own run to the title game, a runner-up finish in which Owens and other Bulldog seniors played big roles.
"They're part of a conference championship, state finalist, part of a lot of wins in our program," Stamps said. "I think they can take a positive, good memory away from the program."
Sports on 03/08/2015