BY TRAVIS DAVID
PALMYRA — The Palmyra girls and boys basketball teams both struggled offensively on Tuesday night. Fortunately for the Panther boys squad, the offense came to life in the second and third quarters against Clarence Cannon Conference rivals Clark County. Palmyra used a strong second quarter to earn its fourth conference win of the season by downing the Indians, 44-23.
The Lady Panthers struggled throughout most of the game before a fourth-quarter rally was too late in a 40-33 setback.
In the boy’s game, turnovers were a problem early on for the hosts. The Panthers (10-7, 4-1) turned the ball over on their first three possessions and had five in the first eight minutes of play.
Clark County carried a 9-4 lead into the second.
Panthers’ freshman Bear Bock scored the first five points of the second frame, including a three-pointer to provide a spark for the Panthers.
Bock then came up with one of his two blocked shots which the Panthers quickly cashed into an Abe Haerr go-ahead bucket with just over five minutes left in the opening half. Palmyra scored the first 13 points of the second and never looked back in the win.
Panthers’ coach Ryan Wood stated he felt like Friday night’s loss to Macon — their first conference defeat of the season — may have played a part in Tuesday’s slow start.
“We were coming off of a game where we just couldn’t make any shots so I think it was a little bit of a lack of confidence to start tonight,” Wood said. “But it was good to see us put some points on the board in the second and get a little bit of a cushion which allowed us to carry some momentum into the half.”
Palmyra outscored the Indians 18-2 in the second for a 22-11 lead at the break.
The Panthers’ defense forced Clark County into six turnovers in the second. The Indians also misfired on their first nine attempts from the field in the quarter.
Bock scored seven of his 11 points for the game in the second period to help get the Panthers on track.
“He’s one of our best players at getting into the paint and making plays for not only himself but also for others,” Wood said of his talented freshman. “He’s been struggling a bit since the Monroe City game so it was nice to see him gain a little more confidence back in his game tonight.”
Layne Sommers knocked down a 3-pointer for Clark County to open the scoring in the third, but the Panthers’ defense once again locked down on the Indians. Palmyra outscored the Indians 14-2 the rest of the quarter to put the game away.
“I thought we defended well again tonight,” Wood said of his defense. “I think the last two games have been the best we have played defensively all season. We are going to have nights where we struggle to score, but the defense has to be our constant…we did not let Clark see the basket very well at all tonight.”
For the game, Clark County missed 29 of 40 shots from the field. Palmyra came up with nine steals and five blocked shots.
Aaron Stamper, who missed Friday’s game at Macon, came off the Panthers’ bench and tied Bock for game-honors with 11 points. Haerr added nine points, three rebounds and two blocked shots.
Bock pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds, while Quade Plunkett hauled in nine boards in the win.
Sam Wheeler led Clark County (5-15, 1-2) with seven points and seven rebounds.
In the girl’s game, senior Rylie McKinney kept the Panthers in the game. McKinney scored Palmyra’s first nine points of the game before Abbey Redd knocked down a triple from the wing in the final 30 seconds of the first half.
Clark County led 9-4 after the first and 16-12 at the break.
McKinney netted four more points in the third but Clark County was able to extend its lead to 28-20 heading into the final eight minutes of play.
Megan Lake opened the scoring in the fourth with a baseline jumper for the Panthers before McKinney and Taytum White split a pair of free throws to pull the hosts to within 28-24 with 5:27 left in the game.
The Panthers’ defense came up with a steal but was unable to convert the layup which would have trimmed the deficit to two points.
Clark County made the Panthers pay as Alexis Ellison and Emily Hamner knocked down back-to-back corner 3-pointers to push the lead to 34-24.
“That was a tough stretch for sure,” Lady Panthers’ coach Alex Brandenburg said of the 8-point swing. “But you have to give credit where it’s due, Clark hit some big shots, but I was happy with the way our girls continued to battle back…our energy was great for four quarters tonight.”
Palmyra was unable to draw any closer than six points until McKinney swished a three from the top of the key with 7.7 ticks left on the clock pulling her team to within 38-33.
The senior finished with a game-high 19 points to go along with nine rebounds.
“That was one of her best all-around games of the season,” Brandenburg said of his senior. “That is what you want to see out of your senior leader. We ask a lot of her and she has been great all season.”
No other Panther player scored more than Redd’s five points in the loss.
Candra King pulled down 10 boards for the Panthers.
Ellison led the Lady Indians (9-7, 1-2) with 12 points, five steals and four rebounds, while Brooke Howe added eight points and Darian Harper hauled in 10 boards.
Palmyra falls to 6-10 overall and 2-3 in conference play.
“I am happy with our effort tonight and we are making steps in the direction we want to go,” Brandenburg said.
Both Palmyra teams return to the court on Friday as it travels to CCC foe South Shelby.