For the first time since the turn of the century, the Monroe City girls' basketball team has won the Monroe City Tournament. The Lady Panthers accomplished the feat with a 50-48 victory over Palmyra Saturday night. The Tournament championship was also the 20th overall for Monroe City.
"I was still in high school then," Monroe City coach Cody Leonard said of his team's last Monroe City Tournament championship. "So I dont know. I wasn't even here. It was a big win for us, but it is a long season ahead. We are going to see (Palmyra) a lot. We are in their tournament. They are in our district and we see them in regular season. So, we could see them three more times this year."
Monroe City senior Kiette Mundy was feeling on top of the world after the win.
"We are so happy that we won," Mundy said. "It is the best feeling ever."
With 18 points and 5 rebounds on the night, Mundy helped lead her team to the championship.
"It was a tremendous effort," Mundy said. "We were working hard all week every chance that we could. We played as a team and it was solid."
When the game tipped off, Palmyra quickly put Monroe City (5-0) in a huge hole. Each team traded buckets to open the game, but from that point on the first quarter belonged to Palmyra.
"I don't know if we were necessarily slow, but it was more of (Palmyra) was that much faster," Leonard said. "All week (Palmyra) came out in the first quarter like gangbusters and just put it on people. I told (his team) that you have to weather the storm."
The Lady Panthers of Palmyra closed out the first quarter on a 18-7 run to take a 20-9 lead into the second half.
"It was an 11 point lead (for Palmyra) and that was fine," Leonard said. "I told them it can't be 20 (point lead). I told them to weather the storm and then we play our game the rest of the way and we did a good job of that."
Mundy thought it was more of a nervousness at facing a team that has had Monroe City's number lately.
"The first quarter was just jitters," Mundy said. "The whole time we knew what we had to do to get them, I guess it was just jitters from all the past years. We were determined and we stuck with it that we were going to beat them this year."
Palmyra's Megan Hooper scored 12 of her game-high 20 points in the first quarter.
But like Palmyra's semifinal game against Paris, the Lady Panthers of Palmyra let Monroe City creep back into the game during the second quarter as Monroe City outscored Palmyra 16-5 and both teams went into halftime tied at 25-25.
"That gave us momentum and we knew we could do it," Mundy said. "Before, we were always down going into halftime. Our coach put our spirits up and told us to dig down deep, to work hard and to earn it because it was our time to shine and that's what we did."
"It was a great defensive effort," Leonard said. "We scouted them all week. We had their sets down and they knew how to defend it. In the first quarter they were slow recognizing and defending it, but the second quarter we did a good job and kind of made it difficult for them to run their offense."
Palmyra (3-2) came out scoring in the second half. The Lady Panthers of Palmyra took the lead and didn't give it up until the final 33 seconds of the third quarter,
Palmyra re-took the lead at 6:05 in the fourth quarter and held onto it for close to a minute and a half. But that would be the final time Palmyra led.
Mundy gave the host school a point lead (41-40) for good when she hit a layup with 4:37 left. Mundy then extended the lead to 43-40 20 seconds later with another layup.
"Palmyra is a good team," Leonard said. "They are a very well coached team. They have great athletes on their team and they are not going away. You are not going to run away from Palmyra. They are going to be right there until the end and we made just enough plays to hold on there."
Mundy scored 6 of her 18 points for Monroe City during the final eight minutes of the game,
"She played good," Leonard said. "She is a matchup problem for a lot of people. We are not very big, but we do have a little bit of speed in our team."
Mundy wasn't the only Monroe City star down the stretch though. With Palmyra keeping the game close, often within two scores, Carly Spalding scored 4 of her 14 points in the final quarter of play. When Spalding went to the charity stripe with 45 second to go, she made both her attempts to give Monroe City a 50-46 lead.
Mundy and Spalding both scored 12 points for Monroe City over the final 18 minutes of play.
"My dad and my coach call me a second half player," Mundy said. "I don't know. I guess I get a little schetchy in the first half. But I know I need to bump it down and help my teammates and they help boost me up. They tell me I can do it and I keep my head up."
The rest of Monroe City's scoring came from Leah Albus, Kelly Winking, and Olivia Crager. Crager and Albus each scored 6 points, all in the first half of play while Winking scored 5 of her 6 points in the first half.
No other Palmyra player finished in double figures. But, Alexis Vannostrand, Evie Miles, and Allie Dietrich all chipped in 8 points each for the Lady Panthers of Palmyra.