Turnovers, struggles engaging offensively cost Palmyra girls chance to win Highland tourney title


Palmyra forward Candra King looks for room to attack the basket between two Keokuk defenders during Saturday's championship game of the Highland Tournament in Lewistown, Mo. | Addi Zanger photo

LEWISTOWN, Mo. — The numbers don’t lie.

“This was not our best game,” said Palmyra girls basketball coach Kelsey Stuart, shaking her head Saturday evening as she dissected a 48-40 loss to Keokuk in the finals of the 52nd Highland Tournament.

The state-ranked Panthers, who saw a four-game win streak come to an end, turned the ball over an eye-popping 29 times. That was easily a season worst.

“We just need to forget this game,” Stuart said.

In addition, Palmyra scored just 24 points through the first three quarters. 

Outside of a 45-35 loss at Quincy Notre Dame on Dec. 12, this was the Panthers’ poorest offensive production of the season.

“We’re better than this,” added Stuart, again shaking her head while trying to get a grip on what had just transpired.

From start to finish, Palmyra (9-2) struggled with just about every aspect of its game. That the Panthers entered the title game as the tournament’s No. 1 seed made their performance even harder to accept. Second-seeded Keokuk (12-1) won its 11th game in a row and is the first Iowa school to win the Highland title.

“We just have to forget this and go back to work,” Stuart said.

Despite the ongoing struggles from the opening tip — the Panthers trailed 10-2 after the first quarter — Palmyra seemed poised for a potential turnaround at the start of the second half.

“We could have given up early in the game, but we didn’t,” Stuart said. “We fought back and actually led early in the third quarter.”

A quick burst at the onset of the third quarter propelled Palmyra to a 23-20 lead, but Keokuk all but iced the game by scoring 15 of the next 16 points to build a 35-24 advantage. The Chiefs maintained that double-figure margin until the game’s closing moments, denying Palmyra a 15th Highland tournament championship.

Candra King led Palmyra with 15 points, but three of her six field goals came late in the game with the Panthers well behind. King had minimal touches during the early and middle portions of the game.

“We have to get the ball into Candra more than we did today,” said Stuart, who felt most of the Palmyra players lacked the urgency needed on offense, and in some cases even appeared hesitant.

Those kind of intangibles Stuart emphasized may have been illustrated most in Palmyra’s showing at the foul line. The Panthers missed 10 of 15 tries.

Sydney Compton was the only other Palmyra player in double figures with 10 points. Clare Williams added nine.

King and Compton were Palmyra’s top rebounders, each securing nine to tie for game honors.

Kendra Boatman (17) and Camryn Atterberg (12) teamed up to contribute more than half of Keokuk’s points. Boatman and Atterburg scored 23 of the Chiefs’ 31 points in the second half.

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