The Palmyra girls basketball team mixed up its defense to slow Mark Twain during an 81-64 victory.

McKenzie Lathrom was unstoppable in the first half Tuesday to keep the Mark Twain girls basketball team within striking distance against Palmyra. The senior guard put 27 points on the board before halftime.

There was not a single Lady Panther who could handle Lathrom 1-on-1 as she scored 11 points in the final three minutes of the second quarter to lead the Lady Tigers on a 15-4 scoring spree that clawed them within 39-38.

“Lathrom kept them in the game,” Palmyra coach Chris Parsons admitted. “She played great, and we didn't have an answer for her in the first half.”

Palmyra guards Bailey Lovelace and Robby Meyers worked together to solve the dilemma in the second half. The duo double-teamed Lathrom, who managed just one point in the third quarter.

With Lathrom held in check, Megan Stone, who scored all 12 of her points in the second half, capped a 14-2 third-quarter run with a jump shot to balloon Palmyra's advantage to 53-40.

Palmyra (1-0) never looked back in an 81-64 win.

“We had to play a zone a little bit,” Stone said of the Lady Panthers defense. “Our goal was just to not let (Lathrom) score, try and keep the ball out of her hands. We did a pretty good job in the second half shutting her down, but she's a really great player.”

Palmyra junior Audrey Fohey closed the first quarter with consecutive threes to give the hosts a 24-18 edge. The center responded for 25 points and nine rebounds after being challenged by Parsons and held out of his all-guard starting lineup.

“Audrey Fohey went out tonight and she dominated,” Parsons said. “She put on a show. She did a good job going out there, really stepping up and showing that she's got that junior leadership.”

A putback by Lovelace grew Palmyra's lead to 35-23 with 3:18 remaining in the first half.

But Lathrom followed that with a steal-and-score and an assist to sophomore Mackenzie Ogle on the ensuing possession. The Lady Tigers senior later forced back-to-back turnovers and turned both into buckets to claw Mark Twain within 37-33 with 1:25 left until the break.

Feeling it, Lathrom launched her fourth made 3-pointer to cut the visitors' deficit to one with 33 seconds remaining in the first half.

“Honestly that run we went on was a great team effort,” Mark Twain coach Alex Brandenburg said. “McKenzie was finding open looks, and I was really proud of her the way she stepped up as a leader not just scoring but encouraging her teammates and showing them how it's done on the defensive end too.”

The Lady Tigers momentum stopped when they came back out of their locker room.

Mark Twain (0-2) failed to score the first 4 minutes, 17 seconds of the third quarter. By the time the Lady Tigers broke through, they were  trailing by 11 points.

Palmyra scored the first 12 points of the second half, fueled by a pair of Fohey steals that morphed into easy offense and another swipe by Sadi Kite, who finished with 14 points and six rebounds.

Lathrom, who finished with a game-high 37 points, pulled Mark Twain within 57-49 with the first of her three fourth-quarter treys, but the Lady Tigers never got any closer.

“We were able to figure that defense out and score some points, but unfortunately that third quarter did us in,” Brandenburg said.

Raegan Barnett scored eight of her 15 points in the final period to seal the deal for the Lady Panthers.

Palmyra hosts Canton on Friday, the same night Mark Twain plays host to Marion County.