BY TRAVIS DAVID
MONROE CITY — The Monroe City boy’s basketball team took the first step towards a fifth straight district championship on Thursday night. The top-seeded Panthers stymied No. 4 seed Missouri Military Academy in the semifinals of the Class 3 District 7 Tournament, 65-31.
The Panthers raced out to a 20-4 lead after the first eight minutes of play and coasted to the lopsided victory.
Six different players found the scoring column in the first for Monroe City.
Senior Logan Buhlig knocked down a pair of threes from the corner, while his freshman brother Reece scored four points to help in the 16-lead.
A drive from Kyle Hays and a three-ball on the wing by Joshua Talton pushed the Panthers’ lead to 29-6 with 5 minutes, 14 seconds left in the first half.
Monroe City led 33-12 at the break and MMA would come no closer than 18 points in the second half.
Despite forcing the Colonels into 27 turnovers for the game and holding them to 31 percent shooting from the field (12 for 39), Monroe City coach Brock Edris mentioned his defense could have played better.
“Usually when you hold a team to 31 points in a high school game, you are pleased but I thought we were a step or two behind a lot tonight,” the Panthers’ coach stated. “We had some lapses for whatever reason, don’t know, but we will look at the film and try to correct those.”
After allowing just 12 points in the first half, the Panthers’ defense gave up 13 points in the third period.
“We gave up a bunch of points in the lane and near the basket there in the third,” Edris said. “We are going to have to play better on Saturday.”
MMA’s Rick Padron proved to be a thorn in the Panthers’ side all game. The 6-foot-3-inch junior tallied a game-high 14 points and pulled down 15 boards in the loss. Edris lauded Padron’s performance.
“I could talk a lot about No. 23 (Padron),” Edris said. “I was very impressed with how he played. He is a strong kid who hustled all game and it seemed like he got every rebound imaginable…he really gave us fits all night.”
Six-seven post player Landry Rudinsingwa added nine points and seven rebounds for the Colonels, but no other player scored more than four points.
Monroe City countered MMA’s 1-2 punch with balanced scoring up and down. Nine different Panthers scored led by Kyle Hays’ 13 points.
Hays scored 11 of his team-high points in the third frame as he connected on a trio of shots from behind the arc to go along with a pair of free throws.
As a team, Monroe City hit nine 3-pointers.
“A lot of guys scored tonight and a lot of them are shooting the ball with confidence right now which is what you are going to need to win in the postseason,” Edris said of his team’s shooting.
Talton added 12 points in the win, while Logan and Reece Buhlig both netted 11 points.
The 11 points for the younger freshman was a career-high. Reece also added three steals and dished out an assist.
“We started giving Reece a little more minutes a few games ago and he really makes the most of his time,” Edris said of his freshman. “He plays hard defense and takes care of the ball. I think tonight was the most minutes he has played this season, which he earned.”
Monroe City came up with 16 steals for the game and 16 of its 24 made shots from the field came on assists.
Hays handed out four assists, while Cade Chapman and Logan Buhlig both dished out three.
The Panthers (23-2) will host No. 3 seed Fayette on Saturday. Fayette knocked off No. 2 seed South Callaway in Thursday’s other semifinal game, 72-55.
Before tipoff Thursday night, Monroe City junior Joshua Talton was presented with a game ball from last weekend’s regular-season finale win over Highland. During the third quarter, Talton eclipsed 1,000 career points.
“It is amazing,” Talton said on Thursday of reaching the milestone. “It’s a great achievement for a career. I could not have done it without my teammates and my coaches pushing me to be better every single day. So it’s just an incredible feeling to get it.”
Talton was not aware of the milestone until after the Panthers’ win.
“I can’t remember if I scored on a euro step or on a jumper from a post up because coach did not tell me until after the game,” the junior said with a smile.