The Palmyra boys basketball team got contributions from an array of players Thursday to secure a 73-68 victory over Canton.
Peyton Plunkett and Ragar McKinney have taken turns leading the Palmyra boys basketball team this season.
Thursday night the dynamic duo took a back seat to a pair of other Panther players.
Sophomore Jayden Durst came off the bench to pour in a career-best 19 points, while Ragar Plunkett tied a career-high 18 points. The pair of Panthers helped Palmyra edge Canton, 73-68, in the first semifinal game of the Highland Tournament.
Peyton Plunkett went to the bench with 1 minute, 45 seconds left in the first quarter after picking up his second foul.
Durst came in and knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing giving the Panthers a 16-13 lead. It would be the first of four triples on the night for the sophomore.
“With Peyton being in foul trouble, I knew I had to step up,” Durst said. “I just wanted to play hard, do my best and hope good things would happen.”
His corner three and old-fashioned 3-point play later in the half gave the Panthers a 33-28 edge with just under four minutes left until halftime.
Despite Peyton Plunkett and McKinney being held scoreless, Palmyra led the Tigers 43-38 after the first 16 minutes of play.
“That's a good question,” Panthers coach Ryan Wood replied after being asked how his team held a lead at the half. “But Jayden came in and did some really good things for us.”
Canton scored the first seven points of the third period for a 45-43 lead.
A drive by McKinney — for his first points of the game — and a 3-pointer from Durst put the Panthers back on top, 48-45, with 4:12 to play in the third.
After Canton pulled even at 50, the Panthers scored the final seven points of the frame for a 57-50 lead.
But the Tigers would not go away.
Canton scored the first eight points of the fourth for a 58-57 lead with 4:18 to play.
Peyton Plunkett scored his second bucket of the game with a tough leaner in the lane, giving the Panthers a 59-58 edge. It would be the senior's last points, as he fouled out with 2:52 left.
Then the “other” Plunkett took over.
Ragar Plunkett scored on back-to-back possessions — both driving layups — to give the Panthers a 65-60 lead.
“That is what he is capable of doing,” Wood said of Ragar Plunkett. “He has not scored much this season, but he made some big buckets tonight when we needed them the most.”
Ragar Plunkett also sank 4 of 6 shots from the charity stripe in the final 65 seconds to stave off the Tigers comeback.
LaVion Wilson led Canton with a game-high 24 points.
Bill Nunnelly added 11 points in the win for the Panthers, while Landon Lucas (9) and Laithan Sublette (7) combined for 16 points.
“Just a total team win tonight,” the Panthers coach stated. “We had some leads and lost some leads tonight. But we were able to weather the storm and finished the game. All nine players who played tonight did some great things. I am just tickled to have the opportunity Saturday night.”
The Panthers (10-2) will face undefeated Clark County in the championship game. The top-seeded Indians defeated Kirksville in the second semifinal Thursday night, 70-50.
Saturday’s championship game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.