HANNIBAL, Mo. — The game was much closer than the final score appeared.
For three quarters, Hannibal gave everything Monroe City could handle in Tuesday’s boys basketball contest at Korf Gymnasium.
Momentum shifted going into the fourth quarter, and the Panthers secured a 60-39 win over the Pirates.
“I think our defense kind of turned up a little bit in the second half,” said Monroe City head coach Brock Edris. “We didn’t give up many points. The second half is where we had struggled for a lot of this year. To see our defense play better in the last two quarters, I was really happy with that.”
It was quite a change of fortune for Hannibal, who had a four-point lead as late as with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
“Guys are going to see this in the paper or (on social media) and say this game was a blowout,” said Hannibal head coach Marty Hull. “When we got down by eight points, we had to start pressing and trapping and gambling. Monroe City is a great team and took advantage of it and scored on the back end. That’s what a good team does.”
Monroe City jumped out to an early 7-0 lead and was up 11-3 before Hannibal head coach Marty Hull called a timeout.
With the aid of three 3-pointers by Pirates senior guard Courtland Watson, Hannibal pulled within four points by the end of the first quarter.
The Pirates carried that momentum into the second quarter and took a brief lead with a bucket from senior guard Aaris Stolte.
“We struggled a little bit in the first half, but a lot of that was because of Hannibal playing really well,” Edris said. “They shot the ball really well. Courtland Watson was having a day ... and we know (Aaris) Stolte can shoot, so shots were falling down.”
Panthers senior guard Josiah Talton drained a 3-pointer to quickly give Monroe City the lead back. Monroe City would go on to take a 27-26 lead to halftime.
Josiah Talton continued his hot streak after winning the Clopton Tournament MVP last Saturday. He totaled 12 points and pulled down a team-high nine rebounds in Tuesday’s win.
“Josiah has been playing pretty well since the Clopton Tournament,” Edris said. “He’s been pushing the basketball really well, finding open teammates and really developed that mid-range game that he really likes. He’s been instrumental in our success over the years.”
Watson had connected with four 3-pointers in the first half, but would be held scoreless in the second half. He finished with 12 points and four rebounds.
“He started out well with hitting four 3’s in the first half,” Hull said. “They made an adjustment and made it hard for him to shoot. That really helped pick up the energy when you have a player going off like that (in the first half). Everybody kind of picks it up.”
Hannibal came out firing after halftime and took the lead on two separate occasions in the third quarter.
Late in the third quarter, Panthers senior guard Joshua Talton hit a 3-pointer to break a 35-35 tie. He would later come up with a steal and fast break bucket to give Monroe City a 40-35 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter was all Monroe City, who outscored Hannibal by a 15-4 margin to shut the door.
The Panthers were aided by 10 fourth quarter points and two 3-pointers by Joshua Talton, who had been limited to just two points in the first half by Hannibal. Talton would finish with 19 points and four rebounds.
“(Talton) did what a great player does, takes over the game,” Hull said. “Our game plan was to back off of him and give up more 3’s than 2’s. He hit three 3’s, so hat’s off to him. I thought we executed the game plan well. It was down the stretch where we got a little bit cold.”
Both teams will compete in the Tony Lenzini Tournament next week.
Monroe City (9-3) will host Clark County (2-6) in its homecoming game on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Panthers will then play in the Harrisburg/Ramey Showcase on Saturday.
“We are going to try to keep these guys as fresh as we can and see what we got these next two weeks,” Edris said.
Hannibal (2-5) will host Kirksville (11-1) in its next game on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“There’s no cupcakes on our schedule,” Hull said. “We play all of the teams in conference and out of conference ... there’s nobody on our schedule where we think it’s an easy win. You have to bring it every game.”