Monroe City’s turnaround continues with victory over Canton in tourney title game

Monroe City’s Meredith Gates (11) shoots a free-throw during the Tony Lenzini basketball tournament championship game the Canton Tigers and the Palmyra Panthers, Saturday in Palmyra.  Mathew Kirby (Herald WhigCourier Post)

Monroe City's Maridith Gares puts up a free-throw attempt during Saturday night's championship game of the 81st Tony Lenzini Tournament in Palmyra, Mo. | Mathew Kirby photo

PALMYRA, Mo. — Maridith Gares knows exactly when the Monroe City girls basketball team’s season did an about-face.

“We had just lost by 20 points to Elsberry, and we all knew something had to change,” the 5-foot-7 senior guard said.

And it most certainly has.

More proof of that tcame Saturday night when Monroe City upended favored Canton 48-32 in the finals of the 81st Tony Lenzini Tournament. Canton was seeded No. 2 in the eight-team field, while Monroe City was No. 5.

The victory pushed Monroe City’s record to 9-7, which is a stark contrast to where it stood following that 52-32 late December thumping by Elsberry. The Panthers were 2-7 at that point, but have rebounded to win seven straight, including a tournament title at Clopton earlier this month.

Gares scored a game-high 19 points against Canton, including 10 in the second quarter when Monroe City seized control of the game. Canton had led 10-9 after the first quarter, but by halftime Monroe City had broken loose for a 26-19 advantage and then completely lowered the boom in the fourth quarter when it outscored the Tigers 15-5.

“We started taking care of the ball much better in the second quarter, and then in the fourth quarter we had much better movement against their defense,” Monroe City coach Adam Rung said. “We were also able to capitalize on opportunities that we got.”

The championship was Monroe City’s first at Palmyra since 2021 and its 12th overall.

Gares gave much of the credit for the Panthers’ latest victory to her club’s improved defensive play over the closing three quarters. Canton did not score in double figures in any of those periods.

“When our defense is consistent, it can keep us in games,” Geres said. “We still have a ways to go in things we’re working on, but we’re getting there.”

Naaron Hays was Monroe City’s other double-figure scorer with 10 points. Audri Youngblood’s nine-rebound performance helped the Panthers to a 33-24 edge on the boards.

Canton coach Danielle Baker, whose program was seeking a third straight crown at Palmyra, felt a combination of fatigue and frustration helped foil the Tigers’ title bid.

“We missed a lot of (in-close) shots, but give Monroe City’s defense credit, too,” Baker said. “Monroe City is really coming on strong. We also didn’t have a lot of second shots. We’ve been having trouble scoring most of the season. Thirty-two points in a championship game like this just won’t do it.”

Baker said when Monroe City outscored Canton 17-9 in the second quarter to take the seven-point halftime lead “just took the wind right out of our sails”.

Chayse Uhlmeyer (9), Macie Fisher (8) and Macy Glasgow (7) combined for 24 of Canton’s points. Glasgow led the Tigers with six rebounds.

In the third-place game, Palmyra downed Hannibal 66-61 in overtime.

Sydney Compton (21) and Clare Williams (17) were the top scorers for Palmyra (11-3). Aubrielle Krigbaum (17) led Hannibal (9-6). 

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