BY TRAVIS DAVID
LINN — A two-plus hour bus trip home in the middle of the week is a lot more bearable coming off a win.
The Monroe City boy’s basketball team did not mind the travel Tuesday night.
The No. 3 ranked Panthers hit the road for a Class 3 State Sectional game and returned winners, 50-46 over Linn.
The win moves Monroe City to 25-2 on the season and a berth into Friday night’s quarterfinal round.
“Finding out we have a home game Friday night makes it more exciting too,” Monroe City coach Brock Edris said of Tuesday night’s long trip. “We did not play as clean of a game as we would have liked tonight, it was one of those ugly wins where you find a way to get it done. But hopefully, we can clean it up Friday night.
“We are just excited to be back in the quarterfinals and anxious to see if we can get the job done.”
The turning point Tuesday came in the closing minutes of the first half. After giving up 15 points in the opening eight minutes of play, the Panthers’ defense showed its prowess. The Panthers forced a couple of turnovers late in the half and scored in transition for a 30-24 lead at the break.
“We traded buckets almost the entirety of the half and really the whole game,” Edris said. “Those turnovers at the end of the first half were big, especially since they outscored us in the third.”
Linn matched its first-quarter point total in the third as the hosts trimmed the Panthers’ lead to 43-39 heading into the fourth.
Aside from some missed free throws down the stretch, the Panthers played disciplined over the final eight minutes of play.
“The guys did a good job of understanding the situation,” Edris said of his team playing with a fourth-quarter lead. “We took care of the basketball and got a big stop when we needed it.”
The Panthers also came up with a clutch bucket to help seal the win.
Alek Peters trimmed the Monroe City lead down to two with a shot from near the volleyball line for his lone three-pointer of the game.
Deion White then pushed the advantage back to four points on a basket with just nine seconds left in the game.
The basket was White’s lone make on the night.
Edris then used a little strategy to help secure the win.
“We had some fouls to give and we used them to help run out the clock.”
Kyle Hays knocked down three shots from behind the arc — two in the opening quarter — in part of his team-high 15 points.
“Kyle hit some big shots for us tonight,” Edris said of his guard. “He hit some threes and also had a couple of nice floaters in the lane for us.”
Points in the paint were hard to come by for the Panthers, according to Edris.
“We had a hard time matching up with their post players,” the Panthers’ coach said of the Wildcats. “They really gave us fits on the inside and made things really difficult around the rim.”
Joshua Talton added 14 points in the win, while Joshia Talton finished with nine points and a team-high seven boards from his point-guard position.
Joshua Talton dished out a team-best four assists.
Linn (16-8), who did not go to its bench for the entire game, was led by Caleb Maaseen’s game-high 17 points.
Monroe City will host No. 6 ranked Christian Friday night.
The quarterfinal game is a rematch of a 2018 sectional game that was won by Christian.
The Eagles defeated Palmyra Tuesday night, 65-43.
“They are really athletic,” Edris said of Friday night’s opponent. “But we are excited and the gym should be packed.”
NOTE: Game stats provided by Ryan Watson, co-host of the Two Dubs Show.