BY TRAVIS DAVID
MONROE CITY — Despite allowing just 31 points in Thursday night’s Class 3 District 7 semifinals, Monroe City coach Brock Edris was not happy with the way his team played defensively.
The detailed-oriented coach did not have the same thoughts on Saturday.
The Panthers came out focused and hungry against No. 3 seed Fayette. Monroe City raced out to a 14-2 run and never looked back in a 74-40 romp to claim its fifth straight district championship.
“I was really pleased with the focus of our players in the locker room before the game,” Edris said of his team. “They were on a mission together as a team to perform well knowing it was what we call championship Saturday. And to come out and do this on our home floor against a team who can really get out in transition well and has players who can really score the ball early and often, was just a great showing by our guys.”
As good as the defense was out of the gate, the Panthers’ offense may have been even better.
Monroe City scored eight of its 10 first-quarter buckets at the rim. Five of those were assisted and four came from offensive rebounds.
“Our shot chart in that first quarter was just phenomenal,” Edris said of his offense. “Our guys were sharing the ball well and finding guys at the rim.”
The loudest of buckets came from Joshua Talton. The Panthers’ defense came up with a steal just inside the three-point line and Talton leaked out behind the Falcons. Joshua Talton tossed a perfect pass which led his brother to the hoop where he flushed it down for a 14-2 lead with 3 minutes, 30 seconds left in the first.
Fayette called a timeout as Joshua pumped up the home crowd and the black and gold faithful erupted.
“That all started with a great defensive effort,” Edris said of the thunderous play. “And that is a play that Josh is very capable of making. You don’t want to get too high after a play like that, but I thought our guys did a great job of maintaining that same energy no matter what the score was throughout the rest of the game.”
Monroe City led 22-9 after the first eight minutes of play and never let off the gas pedal.
The Panthers’ offense scored 23 more points in the second for a commanding 45-17 lead at the break. A 63-28 lead after three quarters enforced a running clock over the final eight minutes of play.
Joshua Talton led the way with a game-high 22 points to go along with seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Jaedyn Robertson added 12 points while Deion White netted eight points and seven rebounds.
As a team, Monroe City came up with 11 steals, forced 18 turnovers and drew three charges.
The Panthers also dominated the glass with a 36-15 edge for the game.
“We kind of let one player destroy us so we did not want to let that happen again tonight,” Monroe City senior Logan Buhlig said. “I think we came out here tonight with the best energy we have had all season. We all were just so hyped up to play. Personally, I knew this could be my last game so it was great that everyone came out and played great. Now I am excited and ready to see how far we can go.”
Buhlig finished the game with seven points and handed out three assists in addition to drawing a pair of charges.
Josiah Talton added six points and pulled down a game-high eight rebounds from his guard position, while Cade Chapman and Bo Patterson scored six points apiece off the bench.
Chapman also handed out three assists in part of the Panthers’ 15 for the game on 32 made shots.
Monroe City (24-2) will travel to face Linn in the state sectional game on Tuesday night.
Linn knocked off District 8 No. 1 seed Iberia earlier on Saturday at a neutral site.
Edris stated although Saturday was fun in front of their home fans, his team needs to bring the same type of energy no matter where the game is played.
“You have to play well to win the postseason no matter where you play,” he stated. “This week we travel to play Linn on their home floor. Everything is earned and not given so we have to approach every game with this same mentality.”