The Monroe City girls basketball team couldn't hold onto its halftime lead in a 64-60 loss to Highland on Tuesday night.
Less than a week ago, the Monroe City girls basketball team defeated Highland in the semifinals of the Tony Lenzini Tournament in Palmyra.
Although Highland came up short in the game, the Lady Cougars gained confidence over the final 12 minutes of play.
Monroe City built a 20-point advantage midway through the third frame in that game, but the Lady Cougars clawed their way back before falling by 12 points.
Tuesday night, Highland gained even more confidence with a 64-60 win over the Lady Panthers in a Clarence Cannon Conference clash.
Monroe City appeared to be on the verge of duplicating another large lead on the Lady Cougars.
A 3-pointer by Emilie Okenfuss gave the Lady Panthers a 34-26 lead with 2 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the first half.
Kennedy Flanagan scored the final four points to pull the visitors to within 34-30 at the break.
“That was huge for us,” Highland coach Meleia Neiman said. “Last week the same thing happened (got down by close to 10 points) and we had a couple letdowns, which allowed them to get a 20-point lead. Tonight we were able to make some plays to prevent that from happening.”
A bucket from Jada Summers with 3:18 left in the third period extended the Monroe City lead back to 42-35.
Again, Highland responded.
Haley Meyer capped a 9-0 run with a four-point play with 1:29 left in the frame. It was the first Lady Cougars lead since Meyer scored on a rebound with 6:13 left in the first half.
Riley Quinn scored near the rim on an assist from Delanie Okenfuss with 24 ticks left in the third for a 48-44 lead. It proved to be the last bucket the Lady Panthers would score with the lead.
After Kaitlin Benson finished the third-period scoring with her third 3-pointer of the game, Meyer opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer for a 50-48 lead.
Highland would not relinquish the lead.
With the offense coming up with play-after-play, it was the Lady Cougars defense that made arguably the biggest play of the game.
Trailing 54-50, Summers made a drive toward the hoop. Addy Johnson beat Summers to the spot and Summers was whistled for a charge — her fourth foul — with 3:55 left in the game.
“We’ve been talking about someone stepping up and taking a charge,” the Lady Cougars coach said. “It will only hurt for a minute, but Addy stepping up and taking that charge was huge. I think it (the fourth foul) may have slowed Jada down the rest of the game.”
The Highland lead grew to as many as eight before Emilie Okenfuss knocked down a 3-pointer with 42 seconds remaining.
Another three from Delanie Okenfuss pulled the Lady Panthers to within 63-60 with 12 seconds left, but Benson split a pair of free throws for the final margin.
Turnovers were a key Tuesday night.
The Lady Panthers turned the ball over six times in the final eight minutes of play.
“We didn’t take care of the basketball,” a dejected Monroe City coach Cody Leonard said. “When you give a team like Highland a bunch of extra possessions, it’s not going to bode well for you in the end.”
Leonard was also unhappy with his team's shot selection.
“We are not a jump-shooting team,” the Lady Panthers coach said of the 7-for-21 shooting performance from behind the arc. “When we are living and dying by the jump shots, that is not good. We have to move the ball better to get better looks that we want, not what they want us to take.”
Summers paced Monroe City with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Delanie (17) and Emilie Okenfuss (13) combined for 30 points in the loss.
Benson and Meyer scored a combined 36 points for Highland (12-4), led by Benson’s 22.
Becca Scott scored six points, pulled down 12 rebounds and swatted away three shots.
The loss drops Monroe City to 16-2 with both defeats coming to conference foes.