Right from the opening tip, the Palmyra boys’ basketball team was ready to go as the Panthers beat Mark Twain 76-54 in the first round of the 70th Annual Tony Lenzini Basketball Tournament.

“Its huge to get the opening round win,” Palmyra coach Brian Meny said. “This is only our second win here (at Palmyra). We are 2-3 here. I thought we really played well tonight. For us to get that win and to move on, that is what you want to do. You always want to get two wins in a tournament somehow and that helps you to have a successful season. It is a good feeling to get that win and move in the right direction.”

The Panthers opened the first quarter with 15-3 run and by the time the opening eight minutes were over, Palmyra led 23-11. During the Panthers’ opening run, Palmyra had six different players score before anyone scored a second time.

“We have been really working on making the extra pass,” Meny said. “You look at your really good high school teams and great college teams and they  are not afraid to make that extra pass.  They trust each other and we have really been focusing on that. I thought the kids did a great job tonight.”

Mark Twain kept the score closer in the second quarter. Midway through the second, Mark Twain had cut Palmyra’s lead to five points at 38-33 following a 12-5 run. But the Panthers countered with a 12-3 run of their own to close out the first half. When the quarter came to a close, Palmyra had outscored the Tigers again, 17-15, and took a 40-26 lead into the intermission.

“Chad Reading’s (Mark Twain coach) kids were 7-5,” Meny said. “They haven’t been beaten by more that six and haven’t won by more than six. So they are used to close games and used to coming back and making those runs. I told my kids, this was a team going to be relentless and keep coming back at you.”

In the third quarter, Mark Twain got its offense going and battled Palmyra. Each team traded buckets for most of the quarter. With 4:21 left in the third, Mark Twain had cut Palmyra’s lead to eight points. Palmyra bumped it back up to 12 points late in the third. While the Tigers finally outscored Palmyra in the third quarter, it was only by two points, 14-12. Palmyra still led the Tigers 52-40 heading into the final eight minutes of play.

“Kudos to coach Reading,” Meny said. “Those kids play hard all the time.”

Palmyra kicked up the intensity in the fourth quarter as the Panthers recorded their highest scoring quarter of the game. Palmyra outscored Mark Twain 24-14 over the final eight minutes of play. Over the final several minutes, Palmyra pulled its starters and finished out the game with their bench on the floor.

“That is in opportunity for us to go ahead and work on some stuff,” Meny said. “We get the rest of our kids in who work hard in practice everyday.”

The Panthers had three starters finish the night with double-figure scoring. Sophomore Trevor Meny finished with a double-double as he led the Panthers with 19 points and also dished out 11 assists.

“We have tried to get him to the point where he can free Brock (Butler) up more,” coach Meny said. “We feel like Brock is a really good scorer and Trevor can distribute more. It is a way to get everyone involved and when he is passing the ball, it makes everyone a whole lot better.”

Brock Butler had 15 points while dishing out 7 assists and pulling down 7 rebounds for the Panthers. Jordan Nutt was the other Panther starter to finish with double digit points. Nutt turned in 10 points for Palmyra and brought down 4 boards.

“That is what you have got to have out of your guards,” Meny said. “Brock is a guard, but he is not really tall. He is a really strong kid.”

One game after setting his career high with 12 points, Will Funkenbush had another huge game for the Panthers. Coming off the bench, Funkenbush finished the night with 16 points and 7 rebounds. Fourteen of Funkenbush’s points came in the first half.

“Ever since Will has gotten back, he has really put in the effort,” Meny said. “He has put the time in for us and working on it and trying to get better.”

That the Panthers had four players in double figures excited Meny.

“Wow,” Meny said. “That is just big. Especially when Will can come in. We need his big body because we lack anything in size. We don’t lack heart, but we lack size and when we can get Will playing like that, that is big for us.”

Mark Twain had two players finish in double-figures. Garrett Jarman led the Tigers with 17 points while Logan Epperson chipped in 13 points. Epperson scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half behind three treys. On the flip side, Jarman scored 11 of his team-high 17 points in the second half. Jarman also hit three treys for the Tigers.

“Normally it is Ethan Anderson and Jarman that are their two leading scorers and Epperson chips in,” Meny said. “I don’t know how many Anderson got tonight, but I thought the Epperson boy, No. 1, shot the ball really well tonight for them.”

With the win, Palmyra improves to 9-6. The Panthers will play No. 3 seeded Clark County Thursday night in the semifinals. Mark Twain falls to the consolation bracket and will face No. 6 seed Bowling Green, also on Thursday. The Tigers will tip off at 9 p.m. while the Panthers will play at 6 p.m.