Nothing but net: Williams’ buzzer-beating 3-pointer lifts Palmyra girls to tourney championship

Palmyra girls

The Palmyra girls basketball team won the championship of the 99th Monroe City Tournament by beating South Shelby 64-61 Saturday night in Monroe City, Mo. | Submitted photo

MONROE CITY, Mo. — By design, Clare Williams’ first option was to pass the ball.

Fortunately, that did not work out.

Williams wound up unleashing a 22-foot bomb that found nothing but net as time expired Saturday night, sending the Palmyra girls basketball team to a 64-61 victory over South Shelby in the finals of the 99th Monroe City Tournament.

“The play was to get the ball inside to Candra (King), but when the clock had just about run out, I threw it up there … and it went in,” said Williams, a 5-foot-9 junior guard who led Palmyra with 18 points.

Palmyra’s championship was its second straight. The Panthers, who are now 5-0, have won six Monroe City titles since 2013 and 21 overall since 1945.

Afterward, first-year Palmyra coach Kelsey Stuart just rolled her eyes and took a deep breath. The fourth quarter, which played out in front of a standing-room-only crowd, had been emotionally draining for her.

First, Stuart watched as the Panthers blew a 55-48 advantage when South Shelby (5-1) scored nine unanswered points to take a 57-55 lead with 3 1/2 minutes remaining. From that point on, the two clubs traded a combination of field goals and free throws that set up Williams’ heroics.

Off an inbounds play from under the Palmyra basket, Williams caught the ball on the right wing and looked to feed the ball to King, the 6-foot senior who had thrown the inbounds pass and tried to muscle her way open on the block.

Since it wasn’t open, Williams dribbled to her right and popped the game-winning shot.

“I was proud of the way the girls dealt with the adversity,” Stuart said of the late lead that disappeared early in the fourth quarter. “This was a tough game and it was an ugly game, but mistakes will happen and I was proud of the way the girls were able to come back.”

Williams said she and her teammates did not become rattled when momentum swung in favor of South Shelby.

“We knew they would make a run, and we just tried to keep everyone in check,” Williams said. “Our defense helped hold us together. Winning this championship two years in a row feels really good.”

The Palmyra boys also won a second straight title Saturday night, defeating Monroe City 43-23. The back-to-back championships for the Palmyra programs marked the first time in the history of the event, which dates to 1925, that the same school’s boys and girls teams simultaneously pulled off two straight titles.

Sydney Compton (16), King (12) and Alaina Loman (10) also scored in double figures for Palmyra. Compton (8) and Williams (8) combined for 16 rebounds to lead the Panthers to a 42-31 edge on the boards.

South Shelby’s Callie McWilliams led all scorers with 27 points and Belle Roush added 20.

McWilliams was forced from the game early in the fourth quarter with a leg injury and did not return. Roush scored all of her points in the second half, including 14 in the fourth quarter.

Roush (7) and Williams (6) combined for 13 of South Shelby’s rebounds.

Palmyra plays Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Quincy Notre Dame in a matchup of two of the region’s top clubs. QND, which enters the game 8-1, won last season’s meeting 51-19.

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