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Shelby McRae’s career-high 17 lifts Montgomery girls past Benton

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Montgomery's Taylor McRae (4) shoots over Benton's Rylan Hart Korn (21) in the first quarter of Friday's game. The Red Raiders won, 47-29.

MONTGOMERY-Less than five minutes into the first quarter, all five Montgomery starters had scored. By halftime, all five produced multiple assists. And by game’s conclusion Montgomery had recorded an impressive all-around win.

The Red Raiders efficiently moved the ball and set teammates up for quality shots so often that somewhere Pat Summitt likely was nodding her approval. Shelby McRae scored a career-high 17 points, each player made an impact and all but one of 19 field goals came via assist as Montgomery defeated Benton, 47-29 Friday night and won its second straight game.

“We work well together since we’re all close in age. We’ve played basically our whole high school careers together and that helps us play better as a team,” McRae said after also producing 8 rebounds, 5 steals and 3 assists. “We’re working more as a team now that we’ve had more practices. I think it’s really helping us.”

That growth has come in a short time following an 0-2 start and has resulted in consecutive double-digit wins. Montgomery played its best game against Benton as each starter stuffed the stat sheet and helped it build a 26-7 halftime lead which was never threatened.

Faith Persing scored eight points, made seven steals and added three assists. Taylor McRae had seven points and eight rebounds, while Clara Ulrich delivered a game-high five assists and pulled down six rebounds. Morgan Tupper added six points and three assists as Montgomery clicked in all facets.

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Benton's Willow Pursel (1) and Montgomery's Faith Persing (23) battle for control of the ball after Persing's attempted steal in the first quarter at Montgomery.

“The first two games we had some rust and made some mistakes. Practicing hard and fixing those mistakes is allowing us to progress in each game,” Persing said. “We definitely played with more intensity and coach told us to keep it going and I think what helps with that is our passing.”

“We have been stressing a lot that we don’t have to go one pass and shoot,” Montgomery coach Glenn Trick said. “Let’s work the ball, let’s look inside and get that chemistry going.”

Montgomery did that early and often. In addition to the rhythmic passing, Montgomery also is hurting opponents with its balance. McRae was the third player in two games who reached a career-high in points after guards Persing (21) and Ulrich (16) did last Wednesday. Taylor McRae is another threat and Tupper has been a consistent scorer through four games.

And when all five are working as one, Montgomery looks pretty dangerous. It sure did against Benton, opening the game on a 15-2 run and never letting the Tigers sniff a comeback.

“Shelby and Taylor can dominate in the paint and me Clara and Moran and younger girls can shoot outside which works really well for us,” Persing said. “We try to focus on the post and they can dominate the boards, but if we can’t work it out in the paint we can work it on the perimeter and do well there.”

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Montgomery's Shelby McRae (3) shoots on a fast break as Benton's Amber Hughes (12) and Cadence Kander (25) follow in the second quarter.

That recipe had Montgomery cooking all night against Benton. Different players took turns heating up and Benton essentially had to pick its poison when it came to defensive focus. Persing scored five first-quarter points, Taylor McRae six in the second, Tupper four in the third and Shelby McRae eight in the fourth.

Whoever had the hot hand was getting the ball. The Raiders did not care who was scoring as long as it was winning.

“It’s motivation to keep going,” Shelby McRae said. “We have to keep pushing and working hard in practice and keep going strong.”

Persing has been a catalyst these first four games and the junior point guard is picking up where she left off following last year’s breakout season. Fast, competitive and possessing good vision, Persing has twice made seven steals in a game and is as good distributing the ball as she is scoring. Persing and Shelby McRae each had three first-quarter steals and helped force 10 turnovers during that time.

“She’s playing well and as Faith goes we go,” Trick said. “I always said, even coaching boys, that when you have a real good point guard you can do a lot of things with her or him.”

Montgomery did a lot of good things Friday, allowing just two first-half field goals, forcing 19 turnovers and making 11 of 22 shots. Often when Montgomery did miss, the shots were still quality ones and set up well.

Montgomery pushed the lead to as many as 23 in the third quarter and McRae was 4 for 4 from the field in the fourth. Benton never pulled closer than 16 after Montgomery went up 25-7 late in the first half.

“I told the girls after we lost to Neumann and Hughesville, count those as your scrimmages because we hadn’t had any. Now we’re ready to play,” Trick said. “We played more of a one on one type game in those games and now they’re getting better. We’re looking forward to continue working and improving.”

BENTON (29)

Willow Pursel 3 2-5 8, Rylan Hartkorn 4 5-12 13, Amber Hughes 0 1-2 1, Cadence Kander 1 0-1 3, Alyssa Cumberland 1 0-2 2, Ava Hartkorn 1 0-0 2. Totals 10 8-26 29.

MONTGOMERY (47)

Faith Persing 3 1-4 8, Shelby McRae 7 3-10 17, Taylor McRae 3 1-2 7, Morgan Tupper 3 0-0 6, Clara Ulrich 2 2-2 6, Summer Drick 0 0-0 0, Falin Reynolds 0 1-2 1, Kayanna Walters 1 0-0 2, CeCe Beckley 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 8-20 47.

Benton 4 3 15 7-29

Montgomery 15 11 13 8-47

3-pointers: Benton 1 (Kander); Montgomery 1 (Persing).

Records: Montgomery 2-2, 2-1 Mid-Penn.

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