MONROE CITY, Mo. — Monroe City is coming off one of the most successful season in school history, reaching the Class 3 boys basketball state tournament Final Four for the first time since 1995.
The Panthers are hoping to make another deep postseason run in the 2020-21 season.
“I feel like the goals and expectations for this team won’t be much different from years past,” said Monroe City head coach Brock Edris. “Obviously, our kids have gained more experience and confidence knowing what it takes to make it to the Final Four.”
With high expectations entering the season, Edris tells his team ‘pressure can burst pipes, or make diamonds.’
“Our coaching staff works to put our players in very competitive situations during practice and by scheduling great competition,” Edris said. “These experiences give our kids confidence to perform in tough situations and environments.”
Monroe City will have to find a way to replace All-State guard Bryce Stark, who graduated and signed with Hannibal-LaGrange University this spring.
The Panthers also graduated Trevantae Murphy, Ethan Lehenbauer, Dalton McAfee, Ean Ritter, Antwuan Battle and Taylor St. Clair from last year’s 28-3 team.
“Bryce Stark will be remembered as one of the few All-State basketball players to come out of Monroe City and a Clarence Cannon Conference Player of the Year,” Edris said. “What may go unnoticed is how much those seniors also made a significant impact on our basketball team. So much goes into developing a cohesive team that really invests in their teammates.”
There is still plenty of talent on Monroe City. The Panthers return three All-Conference players; senior Logan Buhlig and juniors Joshua Talton and Josiah Talton.
Edris said the Talton brothers have been instrumental in Monroe City’s success.
“Their brother C.E. set a standard of what a great work ethic looks like and they have done a great job of learning from him,” Edris said. “I look for Joshua and Josiah to play with even more confidence this season.”
Edris pointed to Joshua Talton’s impact on the defensive side of the ball.
“There is no doubt Joshua Talton is one of our best on-ball defenders,” Edris said. “The defensive stop to send our team to the Final Four is a perfect example.”
Juniors Kyle Hays and Deion White played significant time for the Panthers last season and both players look to have a bigger role on this year’s team.
Edris sees three other players on his team that could see more playing time this season.
“Jaedyn Robertson and Cade Chapman have the potential to make a significant impact on our team this season after soaking in our playoff run from the sidelines and learning from our upperclassmen,” Edris said. “I’m looking forward to their contributions. Owen Lehenbauer has also shown a lot of improvement from last season and could see some minutes.”
The coaching staff has not decided on a starting lineup yet.
“All of our players will compete and earn their playing time,” Edris said. “Our players trust that we will coach them to the standard that we know is successful. Everyone can’t start the basketball game, but everyone can contribute and play a role on the team.”
Edris pointed to Buhlig as an example of a player coming off the bench and making an impact, earning All-Conference honors last year.
“(Buhlig) was very capable of being a starter for our basketball team, but we felt the spark he could bring us off the bench was more important to our team than starting,” Edris said. “Great teams will sacrifice for one another.”
Like other teams, Monroe City will enter the season with pandemic-related postponements and schedule changes hanging over its head.
Edris said the team to have the mindset of being ready to play on any given day.
“I’m not sure exactly what the basketball season will look like,” Edris said. “We saw a glimpse during football season with schedule changes. I think we have to be ready for anything as a team and make sure we are being responsible in school and in the public.”