MOUNTAIN GROVE, MO — The Irish played the Mountain Grove Panthers in consecutive games on Tuesday night........only 246 days apart. The Panthers eliminated the Irish in the 2018 MSHAA Class 3 quarterfinals on March 20th and the two faced each other again to kick off their 2018/2019 campaigns.
The Irish have played the Panthers in the season opener dating back to 2013. Mountain Grove has dominated the matchup, winning every opener with the exception of the initial matchup in 2013. Tonight would be a different outcome.
The Irish looked much the same as the 2017/2018 team. Losing seniors Ian Cochran and Lincoln Jones, but returning six seasoned Seniors and a host of young talent beneath them. Six of the Irish players only had one practice under their belt having just wrapped up the football season on Saturday. Many thought this may lead to a game with less than peak energy but if it was the fans certainly couldn't tell.
The Irish looked faster and more athletic than last year. It was apparent from the opening tip that the pace would be high and the defense was very active. The Irish took a 4-3 lead with 6:41 remaining in the first and never gave it back.
The team seemed to score in bunches and built the lead to 11 at the half. The Irish stretched the lead in the third, while holding the Panthers to only 6 points in the quarter. The Irish cruised through the 4th to a 27-point victory.
Up next for the Irish is the 85th Annual Clever Invitiation tournament. Play will kick off on Monday night (11/26).