ANNVILLE – For the Cougars, it was an entirely different ball game. For the Raiders, it was more of the same.
Welcome to the consolation world of tournament high-school basketball.
On Saturday night at the Lebanon Valley College Gymnasium, the Palmyra boys’ basketball team ran away from Elco 63-37 in the consolation game of the Lebanon High Tip-Off Tournament. The Cougars got off to a fast start in opening leads of 6-0 and 10-2, and never took their foot off the gas pedal.
The win represented a rebound for 1-1 Palmyra, which was beaten by Erie Strong Vincent a night prior. Elco, now 0-2, also experienced difficulties starting in a season-opening setback to Lebanon on Friday night.
“We always talk about getting better day-to-day, game-to-game,” said Palmyra head coach Pete Conrad. “I think our kids learned learned something last (Friday) night, and they wanted to do better. There might have been an edge there.”
“It’s a matter of being ready,” said Elco head coach Brad Conners. “We just weren’t ready. They (the Cougars) jumped on us. Our defense gave up too many opportunities. Yeah, they (the Cougars) shot well, and we didn’t do a good job of getting a hand in their face. The dribble penetration hurt us. The kick-out led to open looks.”
Early three-point field goals from Adam Newhard and Chris Lynn set the tone for Palmyra, while another Lynn trifecta sent the Cougars on an 11-0 run that spilled over into the second quarter and gave them a 21-4 bulge.
A Newhard three-pointer late in the first half sent Palmyra to the locker room with a 32-15 advantage.
“Some guys really did some good things,” said Conrad. “That was a big factor for us. Guys came off the bench and gave us good minutes. Here’s the other thing, we came out and made shots. And I think we weren’t satisfied. We worked hard on our defense. We were able to pressure the ball and not put ourselves in bad positions.
“I think we were able to get in the lane and then kick it out,” Conrad continued. “Shawn (Robinson) got in the lane, Trey Baker got in the lane. When you have guys get into the lane it becomes difficult to defend.”
“I’m always talking about getting better and taking steps forward,” Connors said. “I thought last night (Friday) we took some steps forward. Tonight we took some steps back. It could be a roller coaster this season. There’s going to be times when we show our inexperience.
“I have to give Coach Conrad credit,” Connors added. “Their kids stepped up and made plays. They have quick guards who can can get into our paint.”
With Newhard and Lynn netting ten apiece, ten different Palmyra players registered points. The Cougars outscored the Raiders 21-3 from the three-point line.
Elco was led by freshman Colton Lawrence’s 12 points and sophomore Cameron Paul’s 11 points. Paul was joined on the all-tournament team by the Cougars’ Mr. Robinson.
“I’ve got a veteran crew and I think they’re buying into the concept of taking advantage of every opportunity to get better,” said Conrad. “At no point did we say, ‘We’re up 17, we’re comfortable.’ It was another challenge to embrace. That’s the one thing I was pleased with.
“In general, we’re pleased,” Conrad continued. “But we know we have some work to do. Some of our key guys have got to be more consistent. We’re far from a finished product.”
“Most coaches stress defense because good defense leads to offense,” said Connors. “Everybody had a good shooting night for them. They (the Cougars) play as a team. They find each other. They do a good job of driving and finding the other guy.
“For us, it’s the little things,” continued Connors. “It’s about individual play. It’s about each kid doing his job and worrying about his part, and nothing else. We don’t have to worry about doing anything crazy. It’s not rocket science.”
Palmyra officially put Elco away by holding the Raiders without a point for a 4:43 stretch early in the third quarter. During that time, the Cougars pushed their advantage to 43-17, on a jumper from Ross Romanoski.
“Give Elco a lot of credit,” said Conrad. “They battle back. Our guys knew that. I thought we did a great job of respecting our opponent.
“I think they’re (the Raiders) doing good things,” Conrad added. “The first thing, for me, is they’re competing. The second thing is they’re running their stuff. They hurt us with block-to-block screening stuff. They were able to get the ball inside. They didn’t let things go haywire.”
“Yeah, it kind of reminded me of last (Friday) night, but we never found our rhythm,” said Connors. “No, playing here didn’t affect us. What an awesome opportunity to play at this complex. There’s not too many high school gyms like this.”