Monroe City was run through a gauntlet in district play and survived to earn a date with Christian in a Class 3 sectional on Wednesday.
The Monroe City boys basketball team was run through a gauntlet during the Class 3 District 8 Tournament last week.
And it survived.
The Panthers reward for claiming their second straight district title will be a date with Christian High School in Wednesday’s Class 3 state sectional game at Moberly.
Christian knocked off Montgomery County by 29 points in the District 7 championship game on Friday night.
Montgomery County defeated Monroe City last season in the state sectional game.
Although Christian creates another tall task for the Panthers, coach Brock Edris mentioned his team is prepared.
“We had to show up in all three games last week,” the Panthers coach said. “Our district was probably one of the toughest in the state with having to face three current or former state-ranked teams. Our guys took it one game at a time and that is what we are focused on now.”
Christian is a balanced scoring team. Seniors Zach Harding and Zach Niemeyer pace the Eagles with 12.5 and 11 points per game. Freshman Sharrod Alexander is third on the team with just under 10 points per contest.
Edris mentioned the Eagles remind him a lot of the last team the Panthers played.
“They have a guy who is 6-foot-5 and reminds us of Chandler Bevans (Clark County), and their guard is a lot like Zeb (Riney),” the Monroe City coach stated. “So having faced Clark County on Saturday, we feel it helps us be better prepared.”
Christian coach Terry Hollander was on hand to watch the Panthers play in the district championship game on Saturday.
“They are awfully impressive,” the Eagles coach said. “And their 24 wins on the season are the most of any Class 3 team left in the tournament, so that says something right there as well. We know they will be a formidable opponent for sure.”
The Eagles have three seniors and two freshmen in their starting lineup. Their first three guys off the bench are also freshmen.
Hollander mentioned it took his team some time to gel this season, but they have been playing their best basketball of the season when it matters the most.
“I think we entered Christmas break a game or two under .500,” the Eagles coach said. “We have a pretty odd combination (with the seniors and freshmen), but they have really come together in an amazing fashion in the last five weeks of the season.”
Monroe City is paced by C.E. Talton. The Panthers junior entered the postseason averaging just over 27 points per contest.
Talton is on the Eagles radar.
“He is a pretty good player that everyone has talked about and is well aware of,” the Eagles coach stated. “We know we are going to have to defend, which is something we have really been doing a lot better job of here of late.”
But the Panthers have proven they are more than a one-man show.
Junior Blake Hays stepped up and led the Panthers in scoring in two of the three district wins. Zach Osborn, Bryce Stark and Antwuan Battle have shown they can carry the scoring load as well.
“C.E. was playing so well throughout the season that our other guys were not forced to do a whole lot,” Edris pointed out. “But our guys are smart and they can see all the attention he is drawing so they are stepping up to the plate, swinging and hitting shots. And they are doing a nice job of finding the open teammates.”
And the Panthers have a few role players who are stepping up in other areas. Senior Michael Ryan has earned a starting spot over the last few games with a strong defensive presence in the paint. Kaelin Kendrick-O’Bryan is a threat off the bench to knock down the outside shot, and Dalton McAfee and Jess Greiman are also post players who can do multiple things for the Panthers.
“It’s important that we are being the best team we can be right now and the guys are doing a great job of carrying that out,” the Panthers coach said.
Hollander added, “It’s easy to see they are a very accomplished team and we are going to have to come ready to play on Wednesday.”
Tipoff will be at 7:45 p.m. at Moberly Area Community College.