After rallying to win, Palmyra boys search for ways to improve first-half effort

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PALMYRA, Mo. — Palmyra boys basketball coach Brian Rea is contemplating a change in the Panthers’ late-season practice regimen.

Shortly following Palmyra’s 48-42 come-from-behind victory Tuesday night over Clark County in Clarence Cannon Conference play, Rea was looking for a solution to why his club appeared to sleepwalk through much of the first two quarters.

“We played with little effort in the first half,” said Rea, whose team is now 15-6. “It was better in the second half, but we need to make sure we are ready to play (at the start). Maybe I have to reverse the idea of easing up with practices this time of the year.”

Rea said he normally likes to “go light” this time of the season when it comes to practice in an effort to bank as much energy as possible for games.

“We just might have to get after it more at practice,” he said.

Clark County (6-13) took advantage of some erratic and rather sluggish play on offense from Palmyra to control most of the first half, although the Indians led just 17-14 at intermission.

“We had a lot of turnovers (11) in the first half and Clark County got some easy baskets,” Palmyra sophomore guard Marty Smyser III said.

What was a constant, however, for Palmyra was its defense, which came up big over the final two quarters, especially the fourth. Palmyra outscored Clark County 34-25 in the second half, including 14-8 over the final eight minutes.

“We knew our defense was going to be the key,” Smyser said.

Clark County coach Dennis Dent agreed.

“Palmyra’s defense disrupted a lot of what we wanted to do,” Dent said. “Palmyra’s a good team and knows how to win these kind of games. We can learn a lot from this game.”

Bear Bock helped trigger Palmyra’s second-half turnaround, scoring 13 of his game-high 19 points following halftime. Bock’s back-to-back baskets at the onset of the fourth quarter gave Palmyra a 38-34 advantage it never relinquished.

Smyser was the other Panther scoring in double figures with 10 points.

Rea tried several different lineup combinations in the first half to ignite Palmyra offensively.

“We were just looking for guys to get it done,” Rea said.

Rea praised the work of Bock, who also led the Panthers with seven rebounds, in and around the basket. He also lauded Smyser, who seemed to regain the feel of his perimeter jump shot. 

Smyser had been struggling from the floor over the last five games following a 34-point effort in a 79-34 win over Highland in the recent Tony Lenzini Tournament. That outburst included a school-record 11 3-point field goals.

“We need those shots from him to loosen up opposing defenses,” Rea said.

Clark County received 15 points from sophomore guard Harrison Parker — all in the first three quarters. Parker also collared a game-leading eight rebounds. Conner Pearl added nine points and seven rebounds for the Indians.

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