The Monroe City girls basketball team hopes to keep its perfect record intact Friday night against Clark County, which had its number last season.
Monroe City girls basketball head coach Cody Leonard and his staff will not have to do much to get the Lady Panthers motivated for their next game.
Monroe City, which is ranked No. 3 in the latest Missouri Basketball Coaches Association state poll, plays host to No. 9 Clark County Friday night.
Both teams enter the game with unbeaten records. Monroe City sits at 13-0, while the Lady Indians are 12-0.
“We have kept an eye on them all year,” Leonard said. “The team knows what this game means. There is not a whole lot you have to do to motivate them.”
Monroe City finished last season with a sparkling 23-4 record. Three of those losses came against Friday night’s opponent, including a season-ending defeat in the district championship.
Leonard mentioned although the game has been circled on the calendar all season, his team hasn't looked past anyone else on the schedule.
“As a coaching staff we have talked about them,” the Lady Panthers coach admitted. “But with the team, we have not talked about them. We prepare for the next team on our schedule. After Tuesday (win at Louisiana) is when we turned our attention to Clark County.”
Friday night’s game will go a long way in not only putting the winner in the driver's seat in the Clarence Cannon Conference standings, but also for district seedings.
Clark County enters riding the high of defeating Highland in the championship game of the 46th Highland Tournament. Highland is another team who is expected to contend for a conference and district title.
The Lady Indians also possess a quality win over Illini West, which is one of the top Class 2 teams in Illinois.
Clark County has had close calls against Canton (50-45) and Keokuk (30-27) in addition to its eight-point win over Illini West and six-point win over Highland.
Monroe City escaped wins over Canton (67-65) and Paris (64-60 in OT) — in the first two games of the season — but have not had much problem with anyone else. The Lady Panthers average margin of victory this season is 27 points per game.
Although Monroe City likes to get up and down the court at a furious pace, which has led to scoring 68 points per game, Leonard knows his team will face the ultimate test Friday.
“They are probably the best defensive and rebounding team we have faced all season,” the Lady Panthers coach said. “They really get after it on the defensive end and mix their defenses well. No matter what five they put on the floor they all crash and rebound well.”
The Lady Panthers will have to contend with six-footers Carissa Bevans and Abby Brown.
With scoring 21 points per game on the year, Jada Summers will be the main focus of the Clark County defense. The junior, who is an undersized post player, has scored at least 20 points in eight different games this season, including the last three. Summers scored a season-high 31 against Van-Far and has scored in double digits in all 13 games.
But Leonard mentioned he expects his seniors to step up Friday night as well.
“Our senior guards have been starting for four years now, they will be ready to go,” the Lady Panthers coach said of Delanie and Emilie Okenfuss. “Em and Dee have seen about everything on the court they possibly could and they understand what defenses are trying to do to us. They both understand what the game plan is, and we trust them to put us in the correct position to be successful each time down the court.”
A third senior guard, Madi Hays, will be a game-time decision. Hays suffered a knee injury in the championship game of the 22nd Clopton Tournament. Hays missed Tuesday night’s game against Louisiana.
“We are hopeful Madi will be able to give us some minutes Friday,” the Lady Panthers coach said. “But she more than likely will not be able to have the workload just one week after her injury. We do not want to push her and potentially cause more damage.”
Options in replacing Hays’ minutes are freshmen Hallie Dyer and Riley Quinn and senior Haleigh St. Clair.
The three players combined for 25 points Tuesday night against Louisiana, led by Dyer’s 13 and Quinn’s eight.
“Playing Tuesday without Madi was a good chance for us to toy around with some different rotations to see what will work best for us,” Leonard explained. “It was good for us to see who can come in and do what gives us the best shot to be successful.”
Game time Friday night is 6 p.m.
“It should be a packed gym and should be a fun game,” Leonard said.