The Monroe City boys basketball team will be tested Friday night by No. 6 Clark County in a home Clarence Cannon Conference matchup.
The Monroe City boys basketball team passed its first rigorous test of the week Tuesday night. The Panthers knocked off Clarence Cannon Conference foe Louisiana on the road for the first time in nine years.
Up next, the Panthers face another stout conference opponent as they play host to undefeated Clark County.
Louisiana and Clark County have taken turns winning the conference the last three years.
Monroe City split its two games with the Indians last season. The Panthers defeated Clark County in the championship game of the Tony Lenzini Tournament at Palmyra. But the Indians exacted revenge with a win in the teams' conference meeting.
The Panthers lost the conference game in heart-breaking fashion.
Monroe City took a one-point lead with five seconds left. After a missed free throw, Chandler Bevans made a perfect pass to Zeb Riney down to the opposite wing. Riney pump faked before drilling the game-winning shot at the buzzer for Clark County.
“To miss out on winning conference on a play like that was tough,” Panthers coach Brock Edris said. “But hopefully having this game at home in a great environment, we can put together a solid game and come out with a win.”
Clark County enters the game 11-0 and ranked No. 6 in the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Class 3 poll.
The Indians knocked off Palmyra to claim the Highland Tournament championship last weekend.
Palmyra is the only blemish on the Panthers record this season.
Edris mentioned playing a tough Louisiana team Tuesday night was a good test for his Panthers.
“Playing them and a great player in Derek Richards, who can score at will, was a good challenge for our team,” the Panthers coach said. “It was a good test for our defense, which we know will be tested again on Friday.”
The Panthers will have to try and contain the Indians three-headed monster on the offensive side in Bevans, Riney and Cole Kirchner.
“Those guys have been starting together since their freshman year,” Edris said of the trio of Indian seniors. “And coach (Adam) Rung does a tremendous job with them. We are just going to have to try and make things as difficult as we can for them.”
The Panthers also have some weapons that Clark County will have to try and defend.
It all starts with C.E. Talton. The junior has scored 70 points in the Panthers last two wins, including a 39-point explosion Tuesday night against Louisiana.
But there are more.
Explosive guards Blake Hays and Zach Osborn are starting to get their basketball legs under them after a long fall season on the gridiron.
Role players like Kaelin Kendrick-O’Bryan, Antwuan Battle, Michael Ryan, Jess Greiman and Dalton McAfee all are making big contributions to the Panthers 12-1 start.
“The big thing for us is everyone is starting to get more comfortable,” Edris pointed out. “They are becoming more comfortable in their roles and they all are playing well together.”
Bryce Stark is another key player for the Panthers, but the sophomore is questionable for Friday night. Stark has been nursing a sore ankle and was held out Tuesday night against Louisiana.
Edris mentioned earlier in the week Stark is listed as day-to-day but hopes “we can get him back for Friday.”
Edris mentioned Friday night’s showdown will come down to who can execute better.
“It’s going to be a game where both teams know each other really well,” the Panthers coach said. “When you respect your opponent like we both do, it’s going to be a battle. We are just going to have to be able to rebound well, take care of the basketball and play great team defense. We are looking forward to another challenge.”