BY TRAVIS DAVID
MONROE CITY — Father Tolton landed the first punch Wednesday evening against No. 1 seed Monroe City in the semifinals of the girls Class 3 District 7 Tournament.
The Trailblazers jumped out to an early 6-1 lead and Monroe City did not look like the tournaments’ top seed.
The Lady Panthers needed a spark.
Mackenzie Moss provided just that.
The Monroe City junior guard came off the bench and knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing for a 7-6 lead with 3 minutes, 17 seconds left in the opening frame.
The shot was an instant bolt of energy for the hosts and they never looked back in a 66-35 rout.
“We know usually whenever we put her in the game shots are going to go up and when she knocked that down it really got us going,” Lady Panthers’ coach Cody Leonard said of his reserve player. “We talk about how we need the bench and everyone to provide a lot of energy and she helped do that tonight.”
Moss mentioned she was only thinking about one thing before the shot.
“I knew I was open and that I needed to hit the shot,” the junior said. “I think it really boosted everyone’s energy and it got us excited to keep it going.”
Hallie Dyer finished the quarter with a pair of driving layups as the Panthers led 11-6 heading into the second.
Grace Schieber drilled a three-pointer to open the second-quarter scoring for Father Tolton.
It would be all Monroe City for the rest of the game.
A rebound basket by Haley Hagan sparked a 12-0 run for the Panthers which all but put the game away.
The run was highlighted by four straight steals from the Panthers’ defense which led to four layups — two by Dyer and two from Clara Minor.
Leonard mentioned the Panther players had a little help on the quick eight points.
“It got so loud in here, they (Father Tolton) thought its coach had called a timeout and just dropped the ball,” the Panthers’ coach said of the home crowd’s energy level. “And Bailee Hays also did a really great job of disrupting some passes which led to steals and easy points for the offense.”
Monroe City carried a 32-19 lead into the half.
As the Panthers continued their surge in the second half, the only remaining question about the game was whether or not Riley Quinn would register her 1,000th career point before the final buzzer.
The Monroe City senior entered the game 17 points shy of the milestone and entered the third period needing just nine more points.
With 22 seconds left in the third, Quinn took a pass from Moss and scored at the rim to become the second Lady Panther to reach the milestone in the last week — Dyer accomplished the feat last week.
“Really I just have to give thanks to my teammates,” the humble Quinn said of the milestone. “They do a great job of getting me open looks and I just do the easy part in finishing at the rim.”
The shot gave the Panthers a commanding 51-21 lead and Leonard immediately called a timeout to allow Quinn’s teammates to celebrate the accomplishment.
— Travis David (@TDavid_21) February 25, 2021
Moss may have been the only person in the gym who was not aware of what had happened on the play.
“It was kind of funny because she was running down the floor ready to get back on defense, she did not know what was going on,” Quinn said with a laugh. “She just thought everyone was cheering because I made the shot.”
In a fitting fashion, Moss capped the third-quarter scoring with a three-pointer from the right-wing beating the quarter buzzer.
Moss finished the game with eight points, three rebounds and a blocked shot.
Quinn tallied a game-high 18 points to go along with 12 rebounds. Dyer finished with 16 points, five steals and three rebounds, while Hagan stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, 18 rebounds and two blocked shots.
For the game, Monroe City forced the ‘BLazers into 20 turnovers — 12 coming on steals.
“Once we were able to hit some shots and get our defense setup we were able to play the kind of game we wanted,” Leonard said.
Monroe City also dominated the boards, 52-25 for the game.
The Panthers (23-2) will host No. 2 seed South Callaway for the district championship on Friday night.
South Callaway thrashed South Shelby, 79-43 on Wednesday night.