Palmyra boys in position to chase first Lenzini tourney championship since 1999

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PALMYRA, Mo. — Bear Bock pulled no punches. He made it quite clear the Palmyra boys basketball team is on a mission.

“It’s been 24 years since Palmyra won this tournament,” the 6-foot-4 junior forward said. “We want to bring the Lenzini championship back home.”

Palmyra moved one step closer to that goal Wednesday night when the top-seeded Panthers turned back fourth-seeded Canton 53-34 in a semifinal game of the 80th annual Tony Lenzini Tournament. The event has been hosted by Palmyra High School since 1944.

Fittingly, it was Bock who spearheaded Wednesday’s victory. He led all players with game highs of 18 points, 12 rebounds and a pair blocked shots.

Palmyra coach Brian Rea also knows the significance of ending the Lenzini drought.

“It’s important to our community,” said the second-year coach, whose team improved to 13-4. “There have been a lot of good Palmyra teams through the years (that have not won the tournament), and expectations can be tough to deal with.”

Rea is also trying to keep a lid on the emotions heading into Saturday’s 8 p.m. title tilt against the winner of Thursday’s 7:30 semifinal pitting Monroe City (5-7) and Van-Far (7-7). Monroe City has won the last four Lenzini trophies.

“If we win, great,” Rea said. “If we don’t, we move on. I just want our guys focused on playing good basketball.”

Although Palmyra has not won the Lenzini since 1999, the Panthers show 16 total championships. Monroe City has 13 titles and Clark County 11.

Palmyra was in control of much of the contest against Canton (10-8), although the Tigers inched within 38-33 midway through the fourth quarter. Palmyra responded by scoring the next 15 points.

“We just had to calm down and take care of the ball,” Rea said. 

Palmyra’s ability to dominate much of the game was a combination of “great team defense” and being patient on offense, according to Rea. That formula helped the Panthers lead 24-10 at halftime.

“We wanted to control the tempo,” said Bock, who scored 14 of his points in the second half. “With our half-court offense, we wanted to be patient. We knew if we got them out of their 2-3 zone defense they couldn’t guard us man-to-man.”

Marty Smyser III seconded Bock with 14 points. Carson Hicks added 12 plus six rebounds.

Palmyra holds a 2-1 edge in the season series with Canton. Palmyra collected a 64-52 victory on Dec. 2. Canton downed the Panthers 54-46 in a Jan. 6 rematch.

Preston Brewer paced Canton with nine points. Kyle Frazier added seven. Brewer (10) and Frazier (7) also combined for 17 rebounds.

Canton plays in the third-place game at 5 p.m. Saturday.

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