Facing a win or go home situation in its own tournament, the Monroe City boys’ basketball team avoided elimination Wednesday night by beating Mark Twain 54-51 in the consolation bracket of the 88th Annual Monroe City Basketball Tournament.

“I think it was a good test for us,” Monroe City coach Brock Edris said. “We have seen different styles of basketball. We have played teams where everybody could shoot it. We played Palmyra the other night and they get up and down. This pace was a lot slower for us. We had 14 turnovers in the first half, but our defense did a nice job to keep us in the game.”

Edris said this win was important.

“It was important to our kids,” Edris said. “Mark Twain kind of had our number last year, beating us three times. So our kids were ready to play.”

The game was tied 10 different times and had 13 different lead changes. During that time, Monroe City trailed four times. The Panthers’ largest deficit was 2 points at three different times. Monroe City’s largest lead was an 8 point lead with 38 seconds left in the third quarter.

Monroe City (2-2) took a 41-35 lead into the final eight minutes of play, but it wasn’t safe.

Mark Twain opened the fourth quarter with a 8-2 run to tie the game at 43-43 with 6:03 left. Over the next minute and a half, the two teams traded buckets, keeping the game tied at 47-47.

Mark Twain finally took the lead with 3:16 left when Garrett Jarman hit a pair of free throws to put the Tigers up 49-47.

After Blake Rodgers tied the game with a layup with 2:40 left, Grant O’Bryan put the Panthers back out in front 51-49 with a pair of free throws with 2:11 left.

Mark Twain re-tied the game at 51-51 with just under two minutes left when Jarman went back to the line and hit two more free throws. But that would be the last time the Tigers would score.

Scott Hoover gave Monroe City the lead for good at 53-51 when he hit two free throws with less than a minute left in the game and O’Bryan added one more to make it a three point lead with 16 seconds left.

With time running out, Mark Twain (1-4) had a chance to tie the game. The Tigers got the ball into the hands of Alex Jernigan who shot a three-point attempt just before the buzzer, but the ball bounced off the side of the rim, sealing the win for Monroe City.

“Our defense is what kept us in the game,” Edris said. “It came down to situations at the end that could have went either way. Fortunately we ended up on top.”

The Panthers had three players finish the night in double figure scoring. Kyle Fulton led Monroe City with a team-high 16 points while Terron Ritter and O’Bryan each scored 10 points. Hoover chipped in 8 points and just missed finishing in double figures.

“We played a lot better team basketball in the second half,” Edris said. “We didn’t force things and took care of the ball and got the open shot to who it needed to be.”

Midway through the first quarter, Fulton slammed the ball down into the hoop on a dunk that sent the Monroe City student section in wild cheers. Fulton then closed out the first quarter with a trey that just beat the buzzer.

Mark Twain’s Jarman finished the night with a game-high 19 points, 11 of which came from the charity stripe. Jarman had just four buckets while shooting 11-of-12 on free throw attempts. Ten of Jarman’s 19 points came in the fourth quarter.

Jarman had just 6 points in the first half. He recorded a bucket in the opening quarter and hit four free throws in the second quarter.

“Grant O’Bryan did a great job on Garrett Jarman,” Edris said. “He is an all conference kid. Jarman can score anywhere close to 30 on any night if he is able to get his shot off.”

Ethan Anderson finished the night with 11 points while Logan Epperson chipped in 9 for the Tigers.

As a team, Mark Twain outrebounded Monroe City 22-18. The Tigers top rebounder, Dalton Hawkinson finished with a game-high 8 boards.

Monroe City advances to the consolation bracket championship game on Friday night. The Panthers will play the winner of tonight’s Paris/Louisiana game.

“Our kids want to keep playing at home,” Edris said. “They are striving to get better all the time. The win puts us at 2-2 and we are playing for the consolation championship. We will try to get our kids rested up and prepared for Friday.”

With the loss, Mark Twain is eliminated from the Monroe City Tournament.