By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
PALMYRA, Mo. -- Kyle Kovar and the Clark County boys basketball team adhere to a simple philosophy.
Stop, score, stop.
It's exactly what the 6-foot-3 Kovar and his teammates did to Palmyra in Wednesday night's semifinals of the Class 3 District 7 tournament at Palmyra High School.
The fifth-seeded Indians outrebounded top-seeded Palmyra 43-22, helping Clark County to a 64-57 victory and the biggest upset of the postseason so far.
"We were boxing out, that's what (Clark County coach Adam Rung) emphasized," Kovar said. "Once you box out, go out and get a score. His emphasis in practice is stop, score, stop, and that's what we were doing."
Clark County (13-14) will meet second-seeded Highland for the district championship at 6 p.m. Saturday. Highland, which beat Clark County 54-48 earlier this season, beat Macon 69-54 in Wednesday's other semifinal.
The key for Clark County will be to get another dominant effort from Kovar and forward Luke Ross. Kovar finished with a game-high 21 points and five rebounds, while Ross finished with 14 points and 18 rebounds.
"We talked about the first three matchups. I thought Palmyra did a good job of offensive rebounding," Rung said. "They averaged closed to 15 per game the first three games. We got a lot of important ones during our runs and we made them play half-court defense.
"In a half-court game, with Kovar and Ross, we like our chances."
Meanwhile, Palmyra ran out of magic. Known for using fourth-quarter comebacks to win games early in the season, the Panthers couldn't get a bounce to go their way.
Trailing by nine with 4 minutes, 4 seconds remaining in the game, Palmyra sophomore guard Trevor Meny stole the ball from Austin Egley and headed up court. As he crossed the half-court stripe, Meny collided with an official, jarring the ball loose.
Clark County picked it up, frustrating Palmyra coach Brian Meny, who turned his back to the official and jumped up and down. Brian Meny was hit with a technical foul, and the Panthers wouldn't the cut the deficit to less than nine until less than two minutes remained.
"I thought when Trevor got the big steal up top, if he hits that bucket, that puts us back to (seven)," Brian Meny said. "Of course, that's when I got a technical. Trevor ran into the official. ... I don't like getting Ts. That was a big turning point at that time."
Poor shooting prevented Palmyra from extending its early lead. The Panthers shot 29 percent (20 of 65) from the field, but led 15-12 early after Caleb Kizer made a 3-pointer to end the first quarter.
After Jordan Nutt, who finished with 10 points, made a layup to give the Palmyra a 21-18 lead with 4:03 remaining, Clark County went on an 8-3 run to take the lead for good.
"Our experience helps," Rung said. "I thought during the middle of the year, we hit a lull there where we didn't have anything to play for. We were out of the conference race, and we knew our focus was geared toward this. We were prepping for this a while now. It shows.
"Our kids have done a great job in film prep and on the court prep. We played two really good games here, and we have one more to go."
In the second half, Clark County continued to focus on its half court-offense. The Indians were slow and methodical and eventually pushed its lead to a game-high 17 points on a jumper by Jayvin Ray.
Ray added 12 points for the Indians, while Chase Bevans added 11. Trevor Meny (15 points), Brock Butler (12), Kizer (10) and Nutt (10) all finished in double figures for the Panthers.
With the memory of a 58-29 loss to Elsberry in last year's title game, Kovar hopes the Indians can keep its same mindset.
"Coming into districts, we always seem to play better," Kovar said. "When it comes to practice, we're focused when it comes to district time. That's kind of what we need to do. We got there last year and didn't finish the way we wanted. Hopefully, we can get what we want this year."