Clark County defeated Palmyra 43-39 in the Highland Tournament championship on Saturday night.

The Palmyra Lady Panthers controlled the ball down by three points in the final minute of a 43-39 loss to Clark County in the Highland Tournament championship on Saturday night. 

Then all of a sudden, they didn't.

An untimely Palmyra turnover thwarted the top-seeded Lady Panthers' comeback chances, and moments later, a Clark County free throw put the contest out of reach as the No. 2-seeded Lady Indians stormed the court to celebrate their first-place finish.

“The name of this game was turnovers,” Palmyra coach Chris Parsons said. “You take care of the ball, we probably win that game. But instead, we gave it away. I'm guessing we had 20 to 25 turnovers. We traveled more tonight than I think I've seen in five years. The ball had to be valued every possession, and I didn't think we did that.”

Palmyra (9-3) led 10-9 after the first quarter before Clark County took a four-point lead into the halftime break. 

Down by as many as 10 in the second half, the Lady Panthers used an 8-3 run late in the fourth quarter to keep their hopes alive. 

Senior Nicole Kroeger led the Lady Panthers with 12 points, while Madison Keim scored 10 and Audrey Fohey finished with eight. 

After all was said and done, though, a last-ditch effort to force overtime came up short against a familiar opponent Palmyra is certain to meet again this season. 

“You've got to give credit to Clark County,” Parsons said. “That's a great team this year. They're 9-2 for a reason. It's going to be a battle come the tournament at our place. It's going to be a battle when they come to our place in the regular season. And it's for dang sure going to be a battle when the district tournament rolls around.”

Parsons said many of the turnovers were unforced and rather caused by an offense that at times went into “panic mode.” 

“We know eyes are going to be on Nicole (Kroeger), but the thing is, Nicole made some great passes into Fohey, she made some great passes to Neisen, some great short corner passes,” he said. “Other kids had some times that they knocked the ball down and got some shots for us. Other times, it went into panic mode.” 

Despite the frustrating loss, the Lady Panthers have no reason to hang their heads, Parsons said, adding the team will “regroup and reenergize” this week during a break in between games. 

Palmyra hosts Centralia at 6 p.m. on Friday night.