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by Mark Cheffey
PHS boys basketball coach Brian Rea would love for his team to have the most rebounds and score the most points, but it’s another more obscure statistical category he hopes the Panthers excel in this season.
“I want our team to have the most high fives,” said Rea, who enters his second season as head coach.
Fans may not agree that high fives will actually contributed to the final score, but Rea will beg to differ, noting that players doing high fives throughout games and the season not only means the team is doing well, but indicates the players are supportive and in tune with each other.
And, if they are doing them until the final buzzer of the season sounds, then it really means something special.
“I want to make sure the players’ time with the team is something they will always remember, and a lot of that is about coming together as a group, as a family,” Rea said.
Entering the new season, Rea said he believes the players are taking his philosophy to heart and are embracing the new system he installed last year.
“It showed in the first practice this year. I could see it all started to click in their heads,” Rea said during preseason.
“We still have work to do, but we’re light-years ahead of where we were. But that’s a tribute to how hard the kids worked last year, and how important it is for them.”
Rea said he was happy with how his first season at Palmyra went. The team finished with a 14-12 record during the district tournament.
“I wanted to give the seniors the best experience they could have, and I thought we played exciting basketball and were in some big games.
And now he is excited about this year’s team that combines veteran leadership and experience with young, upcoming talent.
That is exemplified by last years statistical leader, Bear Bock, who played almost every minute as a sophomore and is ready to take on team leadership as a junior.
“He wants to become more of a vocal leader and do all the little things,” Rea said. “And, we’re working on getting him to go from being a really good basketball player to becoming a complete player and teammate.”
Also returning with considerable varsity floor experience are seniors Tyler Banta, Ryan McKeown, Bronson Juette, Ethan Redd and Jonathan Lundburg and junior, Carson Hicks.
But that’s not to say that’s all there is for Rea who said he believes juniors, Jeremiah Edwards, Jacob Barnes, Landen Gottman and Rayce Ragar and sophomores, Drew Copenhaver and Marty Smyser III have opportunities to make important contributions as well.
“All 13 kids can play,” Rea said. “We may not have the best combination of talent anybody has seen, but we’ve got 13 guys ready to go after it.”
Part of the way Rea gets his players to “get after it” is by making things more uncomfortable for them on the practice floor.
To better prepare them for the tough competition they will be seeing throughout the season, Rea tries to raise the difficulty factor in practice.
“For example, I’ll have them press with five on seven and no dribbling,” Rea said, noting those kinds of drills can make normal basketball settings seem easier by comparison.
Rea said teams often develop their own personality as the season goes along, and indicated this team has a fun-loving attitude so far.
“They are a little goofy, and not in a bad way,” Rea said. “They like to have fun, smile and joke around.”
Rea said part of his job will be to make sure that fun-loving attitude sticks, and he wants to do that by making sure they have fun while supporting each other.
“I say, ‘Hey, let’s use our voices. Let’s see high fives. Point at each other.’”
“That also gets the community behind us. They want to compete and want to have fun doing it.”
Rea said the conference looks rugged as usual with Macon bringing the most veteran talent back, and also noted Highland, South Shelby and Clark County will be improved.
And, while Monroe City lost a lot to graduation, Rea said they can’t be counted out due to the influx of new talent and their winning tradition.
Rounding out the high school roster are sophomores, Jackson Hicks, Tate Hammond, Cade Lehman, Lance West and Braydon Roeder, and freshmen, Marty McBride, Ryan McKinney, Luke Sheppard, Reason Miller, Abram Smyser, Rafe Jones, JT Thomas, Ashton Lovegreen, Noah Williams and Brodie Webb.
Assisting Rea this year are Mark Lick, Nathan Meyers, Cody Ash and Steven Jones, who will head up the junior varsity squad.
Districts were announced Friday and Palmyra was placed in Class 3, District 6 along with Clark County, Highland, Mark Twain, Monroe City and South Shelby.
11/14 Mexico Jamboree
11/29 at Mark Twain
12/2 at Canton
12/5-10 M.C. Tournament
12/16 Unity (Ill.)
12/17 at Keokuk
12/20 at Louisiana
1/2-7 Highland Tourn.
1/10 at Kirksville
1/16-21 Lenzini Tourn.
1/27 at Macon
1/31 Clark County
2/3 at South Shelby
2/7 Monroe City
2/9 at Bowling Green
2/20-25 Districts TBA