Priory’s fourth-quarter defense locks down Palmyra, ends Panthers’ dynamic season


Palmyra's Luke Sheppard, right, looks for room to score while being defended by Priory's Christian Gonzalez during Tuesday night's Class 2 sectional game in Palmyra, Mo. | Photo courtesy Alicia Deming

PALMYRA, Mo. — The St. Louis Priory boys basketball team had not beaten an opponent with a winning record.

Until Tuesday night.

That’s when Priory stunned heavily favored Palmyra 40-29 in a Class 3 sectional game played before a crowd of about 1,200.

Priory, which entered the evening with a rather pedestrian 14-14 record and an 0-9 mark against teams with a winning record, outscored Palmyra 15-1 in the fourth quarter to end the Panthers’ 21-game winning streak.

“We condition our kids for games like this,” Priory coach Bob McCormack said. “We knew if we could keep it close we’d have a chance. It’s a grind for us every night. Our kids did not fold.”

McCormack admitted Palmyra, which also saw a 16-game win streak on its home floor snapped, had Priory on the ropes early, but could not deliver a knockout punch.

Palmyra led at the quarter breaks 6-1, 16-11 and 28-25, but the fourth quarter was all Priory. Palmyra did not score in the final eight minutes until Rayce Ragar swished a free throw with 8.4 seconds to play.

“This really sucks, but give Priory credit,” said Palmyra’s 6-foot-5 senior point guard, Bear Bock, who brought down a team-high 10 rebounds but was limited to four points, about 10 below his season average.

Bock, who led Palmyra to 46 victories over the last two seasons, tried to look at the big picture.

“We had a great year,” he said. “We just came up a little short of our end goal.”

Second-year Palmyra coach Brian Rea also looked at the bright side of an extremely disappointing outcome.

“I love our kids and our community, and I feel bad for them, but there’s a lot worse things than losing a basketball game — even if it hurts right now,” Rea said. “It was a great ride. We just came up a little short.”

Priory senior Christian Gonzalez, a 6-foot-4 swingman who will be playing next season at Hannibal-LaGrange College, scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. He’s averaging 16 points per game in four postseason wins for the Ravens, whose three district foes had a combined record of 20-56.

Gonzalez also drew rave reviews for his defensive work against Bock.

“Gonzalez did a great job defensively,” McCormack said. “We had scouted Palmyra and knew everything ran through (Bock).”

Priory guards Bobby Temprano and Henry Hibey combined for an additional 21 points. Temprano scored 11 and Hibey 10. Jack Parent, a 6-foot-2 forward, topped all rebounders with 11.

Priory steadily increased its margin after taking the lead at 31-28 with a little less than four minutes to play. The Ravens meshed 9 of 12 free throws down the stretch.

“We just didn’t execute defensively in the second half,” Rea said. “We played hard in the second half, but just didn’t execute.”

Carson Hicks scored eight points — all in the first half — to lead Palmyra’s offense. Hudson Bock, Ryan McKinney and Luke Sheppard each pocketed five points.

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