Palmyra girls make statement by upending South Shelby for tourney championship

Palmyra girls

The Palmyra girls basketball team poses with the championship plaque after winning the 98th annual Monroe City Tournament with a 56-54 victory over South Shelby on Saturday night in Monroe City, Mo. | Photo courtesy Palmyra School District

MONROE CITY, Mo. — The Palmyra girls basketball team was better-equipped for such a challenge.

South Shelby is still a work in progress.

Palmyra, which emerged with a 56-54 victory in Saturday night’s championship round of the 98th annual Monroe City Tournament, was able to maneuver through crunch time with just enough moxie to preserve its unbeaten record while handing South Shelby its first defeat.

Lady Birds coach Luke O’Laughlin’s assessment more or less nailed the overview. 

“Palmyra was more ready for a game like this than we were,” said O’Laughlin, whose team is ranked third in Class 3 after being the state runner-up last season. “We had turbo-clocked all of our previous opponents. Our starters had not even played in the fourth quarter.”

Even though Palmyra (6-0) led the final 3½ minutes, South Shelby (5-1) actually had a chance to win the finale at the buzzer. A hurried 3-point attempt from Miranda Patterson, who had a game-high 27 points, was well off the mark.

The tourney title was Palmyra’s 20th and first since 2019. South Shelby was the defending champ.

The Panthers controlled much of the game’s momentum over the final three quarters, but were never able to put away the Lady Birds, who repeatedly worked their way back within striking distance.

“It was helter-skelter out there,” Palmyra coach Tim Southers said. “I’m proud of the way our kids responded. There were a lot of ebbs and flows and momentum swings.”

Taytum White (16), Candra King (14) and Clare Williams (13) all reached double figures for Palmyra. King, a 6-foot-1 forward, also collared a game-best 10 rebounds and blocked three shots.

“There were a lot of ups and downs, but we played great defense and defense wins games,” said Palmyra’s Abbey Redd, a 5-6 senior guard who drained a 3-pointer with 3 minutes, 34 seconds to play that gave the Panthers a 51-50 advantage they never surrendered.

White, who buried three 3-pointers during the back-and-forth contest, said team chemistry has been a major plus this season for Palmyra.

“This team has an unbreakable bond,” said Tatum, a 5-9 junior who felt the Panthers’ defense stepped up down the stretch when the offense sputtered. “We knew we had to stop them — no buckets.”

And that’s exactly what happened.

“We weren’t ready for (Palmyra’s kind of) pressure,” said O’Laughlin, whose team had won earlier games this season by such lopsided margins as 72-10, 56-8 and 62-17.

Southers did not want to read too much into the victory.

“We’re just striving for daily improvement,” Southers said. “We’re not where we should be yet, but we’re making progress.”

Patterson, who scored 20 of her total in the second half, is the only senior on the Lady Birds’ roster. She drew well-reserved plaudits from her coach after scoring all but nine of her team’s second-half points. 

“That’s what an all-stater does, and I wouldn’t expect anything less,” O’Laughlin said.

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