The Monroe City boys basketball team netted 18 unanswered points in the first quarter to take control of a 72-42 win over Highland.

There’s an old adage of, “It’s not how you start, but how you finish.”

The Monroe City boys basketball team had no problem covering either end of the saying Tuesday night.

The Panthers used an 18-0 run in the first quarter to seize control of their Clarence Cannon Conference game against visiting Highland.

After a second-period lull allowed the Cougars to hang around, Monroe City turned on the pressure in the second half to come away with a dominating 72-42 win. 

With the Panthers leading by 34 points heading into the fourth, a continuous clock was used the entire final period. 

“After not playing well on Saturday against a good Clark County team, we wanted to come out and just play better tonight,” Monroe City coach Brock Edris said. “We were looking to get more guys confident in trying to contribute offensively. And I thought a lot of the guys were willing to look for their shots more tonight. For us to compete against the good teams we have to have more guys willing to shoot the ball, and that is what you saw tonight.”

Highland scored the first three points of the game, but a drive by Zach Osborn kick-started an 18-0 run.

The Panthers led 28-8 after the first eight minutes of play.

Then their offense stalled.

Highland crept to within 33-24 with 2 minutes, 44 seconds left in the half.

“I thought we let our foot off the gas pedal there in the second,” Edris stated. “And the Highland kids continued to play hard and got back in the game.”

Monroe City finished the first half on a 7-0 run for a 42-28 lead.

The spurt in the final 33 seconds of the first half, in addition to a pep talk from their coach at halftime, fueled a more complete effort in the second half. 

“We basically told them if they didn’t play better in the third, they were going to be in a battle in the fourth,” the Panthers coach said. “And I thought the guys responded well to that in the second half. We were able to do some things defensively and turned them over, which hurt them.”

For the game, Highland turned the ball over 24 times — 14 coming after intermission.

Monroe City (15-3) outscored the Cougars 22-5 in the third period.

C.E. Talton — who was honored prior to the game for recently reaching the 1,000-point career plateau — scored 12 of his game-high 28 points in the third period. The junior playmaker brought the home crowd to its feet with a baseline drive resulting in a slam dunk.

Blake Hays (15) and Osborn (9) combined for 24 points in the win. 

Kaelin Kendrick-O’Bryan added eight points off the Panthers bench.