PALMYRA, Mo. — For just over three-and-half minutes, the championship girls game in the 78th Annual Tony Lenzini Tournament between the Monroe City and Canton girls basketball teams was competitive.
Canton held an early 7-5 lead, evenly matching up with the top seeded and undefeated Panthers. That lead did not last long.
Monroe City senior guard Clara Minor broke open in the corner to sink a 3-pointer, giving Monroe City an 8-7 lead with 4:40 remaining in the first quarter. On the next Canton possession, Monroe City grabbed a loose ball and Haley Hagan dumped in a contested layup. Then, with 3:15 left in the quarter, Bailee Hays hit a deep 3-pointer.
Monroe City ended the first quarter on a 15-2 run to go up 20-9 and eventually took a 36-19 halftime lead.
The Panthers turned in a dominating performance on offense and defense the rest of the way, running over the Lady Tigers 66-49 to win their first Tony Lenzini Tournament in three years.
It was a nearly perfect game for Monroe City (16-0). Three players hit double digits, led by Riley Quinn with 16 points and Hays and Hagan with 15 points each.
“Defensively, I thought we did a really good job in the first half of keeping them uncomfortable by giving them different looks,” Monroe City coach Cody Leonard said. “In the second half, we had to get a little bit more vanilla because we were in foul trouble.”
During the slow start, Leonard gave a few instructions from the sidelines but he was confident the Panthers would find their groove.
“We have an experienced group. I don’t call a lot of timeouts,” he said. “We can talk it through from the sidelines. We knew as long as defensively we controlled things that it would eventually start to click.”
Although disappointed with the loss, Canton coach Danielle Baker said her team turned in a great week as the Tigers reached the final game of the Tony Lenzini Tournament for the first time since 2009.
“We had a really good tournament. I was happy that we came in as the No. 2 seed,” Baker said. “In our first game of the tournament, Mark Twain played really well, and overall, we had three quality games. This week was good experience for what we will face.”
Baker said that Canton (10-5), which lost to Monroe City 74-60 on Dec. 21, came out with a game plan to press the Panthers and hold them under their normal scoring output.
“Allowing 66 points to the other team is just not going to get the job done,” she said. “We really struggled in the first half scoring. We just could not buy a basket. I think we shot 30% or so. We just had no answer for their big girls underneath.”
Monroe City came out firing in the third quarter, as Quinn’s eight points and six points from Hallie Dyer paced the Panthers to 21 points in the frame to give Monroe City an overwhelming 57-32 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Tigers outscored Monroe city 17-9 in the fourth quarter but were well short of challenging for the lead.
Nariah Clay had the hot hand the second half for the Tigers, scoring 12 of her team-high 14 points. Raven Weather scored a trio of 3-pointers for nine points while Macie Fisher scored a pair of 3-point shots for six points.