BY TRAVIS DAVID
PALMYRA — The boys’ championship game of the 78th Annual Tony Lenzini Tournament Saturday night featured one team looking to snap two long droughts while the other looked to extend a few winning streaks.
Palmyra entered the game hoping for its first tournament title in 21 years, while also snapping an 11-game losing streak to Clarence Cannon Conference rivals Monroe City.
But it was Monroe City who would extend its streaks. The Class 3 No. 3 ranked Panthers won their 10th straight game overall en route to a 12th straight win over the hosts while making it a tournament three-peat.
Monroe City broke an 18-all tie with a 10-3 run to end the first half and never looked back in a 66-36 romp over Palmyra.
“It feels good,” Monroe City’s Joshua Talton said of the third straight tournament title. “Coach gave us the scouting report and I feel like we came out focused and executed what was on it tonight.”
Palmyra had the momentum early.
The hosts looked poised to end the losing skid as they scored the final seven points of the first quarter for a 12-11 lead.
Freshman Bear Bock knocked down a triple from the corner before Aaron Stamper scored on a nice feed from Abe Haerr to cap the run.
Talton scored the first seven points of the second as Monroe City matched its biggest lead to that point, 18-12, with 6 minutes, 12 seconds remaining in the half.
Bock pulled Palmyra even with back-to-back three-pointers with just over four minutes left before halftime.
Then came the pivotal run.
Logan Buhlig found Kyle Hays in the left corner for a three to break the tie and spark the run.
“That first quarter was a battle,” Monroe City coach Brock Edris said. “But to be able to end the half with that little run was big.”
Talton came up with a steal on Palmyra’s first possession of the second half which fueled another 10-3 run and the hosts were never able to recover.
Monroe City outscored its rivals, 19-10 in the third and never let off the gas.
“We did a lot of good things in the first half but just got away from it in the second half,” Palmyra coach Ryan Wood said. “We were cutting really well in the first half but then in the second half we got complacent with hanging out 25 feet from the basket. They went on another big run and we kind of hung our heads…we have to learn from it and be better. We played 10 really good quarters this week, but it’s unfortunate we ended the tournament with two not very good quarters. ”
Edris mentioned he was pleased to see his team learn from a near collapse from the last game. In the semifinals on Thursday, Highland erased a 17-point deficit and pulled to within three points before the Panthers regrouped at the end for a 10-point lead.
“Once we got in that situation again tonight, we challenged our guys to see if they could put this team away and they did a good job of that tonight,” the Monroe City coach said. “Holding a great team like Palmyra to 36 points and do it on their home floor is a great defensive effort.”
Talton finished with four of Monroe City’s seven steals for the game
“Coach always tells us if we can’t play defense we can’t play at all,” the junior playmaker said. “We felt like we could get in their grill and get some turnovers and I feel like that is what helped us get this win tonight.”
Palmyra shot just 33 percent from the field (13 for 39) with over half of its shot attempts coming from beyond the arc (5 for 22).
“We caught fire (on 3’s) the other night against Hannibal and that sometimes spoils you,” Wood said. “Tonight I thought our offense was too much east and west instead of getting north and south into their defense. And that is on me. We have to find ways to score more. I think the last five or six games we are averaging in the mid 40’s so we have to up that number if we want to win more games.”
Bock led Palmyra (8-6) with 10 points, while Abe Haerr (9) and Stamper (7) combined for 16.
Talton led Monroe City (15-1) with a game-high 22 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Buhlig connected on 9 of 10 shots from the free-throw line to finish with 14 points. The Panthers’ lone senior also dished out six assists.
“We ran a lot of offense tonight,” Edris said of the way his team shared the ball. “We were patient and got a lot of great shots.”
Jaedyn Robertson, who sat out Thursday’s game, came off the bench for 11 points in the win. Kyle Hays finished with seven points, Cade Chapman added five points while Josiah Talton hit a three and pulled down six rebounds.