Cardinals clamp down defensively to knock off top-seeded Panthers in district championship

so shelby

The South Shelby boys basketball team upset top-seeded Palmyra to win the Class 3 District 6 championship Friday night in Monroe City, Mo. | Ron Kinscherf

MONROE CITY, Mo. — South Shelby’s Trey Countryman wasn’t giving anyone the game ball.

Thirty minutes after the final buzzer, the senior guard was still cradling this piece of history.

Countryman and the rest of the Cardinals upset top-seeded Palmyra 39-22 in the Class 3 District 6 championship to capture their first district title in nearly 30 years.

“It’s awesome. Amazing,” South Shelby’s Zaiden Wood said. “We haven’t been here in a long time. I think the last time we won a district championship was in ’94. So, it’s just real big. Get one right now. It’s amazing. All the guys are proud. We work so hard together. It’s awesome. We wanted it. We wanted it bad.”

Wood led the Cardinals with 13 points, including two three-point plays in the fourth quarter to help South Shelby put the game away.

But the Cardinals defense led the way. In two previous meetings this season, which South Shelby and Palmyra split, the Panthers’ Bear Bock combined for 39 points. 

South Shelby (16-12) couldn’t let that happen again.

“We know that Bear Bock is a good player,” Countryman said. “We know that we had to just contain him. I felt like we did a good job. Obviously, he’s gonna get his but holding them to 22 points is the biggest accomplishment I think in our careers.”

Bock scored 14 of Palmyra’s 22 points, but he was the only Panther with more than one basket.

The Cardinals forced 23 turnovers, held Palmyra (20-8) without a point for nearly seven minutes of the second quarter and allowed only three field goals in the fourth quarter.

South Shelby coach Kent O’Laughlin couldn’t be prouder.

“I thought we showed up ready to play,” O’Laughlin said. “We showed up with some ‘want to,’ and I thought we really sold out, especially on the defensive end.”

O’ Laughlin came out of retirement to coach the Cardinals this year. A South Shelby alum who has a career record of more than 400 wins combined coaching girls and boys high school hoops, O’Laughlin is best known for leading the South Shelby football program to the Class 1 state championship in 2006. 

The coach’s goals were modest entering the season.

“Win a game. That was our number one goal,” O’Laughlin said. “Change the culture. Change the attitude and see if we can win a game while we’re doing that. If we could do that, well, anything after that was just gravy.”

Now O’Laughlin’s Cardinals have won eightbgames in a row and travel to Hannibal to face Lutheran North, a 52-48 winner Friday night over Duchesne, in the Class 3 Sectional at 7:45 p.m. Monday.

Countryman plans on bringing back another game ball to Shelbina.

“We’re not done yet,” he said.

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