BY JEFF FALK
There is something to be said for being flexible, versatile and balanced. When some players struggle, others are available to pick up the slack.
On Saturday night in the consolation tilt of the Lebanon Tip-Off Tournament, the Palmyra boys’ basketball team employed some good balance to register its initial win of the campaign. Five Cougars netted seven points or more, as Palmyra downed Elco 58-47.
After battling toe-to-toe with the Raiders for three periods, Palmyra turned up the intensity in the final stanza, both offensively and defensively. The result was a 17-4 scoring margin over the final eight minutes of action.
With the win, Palmyra improved to 1-1 on the young year. Elco’s Raiders slipped to 0-2.
“That’s really a balanced performance,” said Palmyra head coach Pete Conrad, checking out his scorebook. “It’s not a bad thing. It’s been a little different mix that I expected. There’s guys who are proving they can do it. And some guys haven’t been as assertive as they can be. Hopefully when the package all comes together it will raise our level of play.”
“We do need something positive to happen,” said Elco head coach Brad Conners. “But on the same note, I think our kids have the potential to be mentally tough. In the huddle, I have their eyes and attention. But it would be nice to get something early.”
Palmyra went 10-for-12 from the foul line in the final period, while Elco attempted just three charity tosses all game and didn’t connect on a one. The Cougars were whistled for a total of seven fouls all night.
“We just made some free throws,” said Conrad of the fourth quarter. “(Brandon) Petrouskie made some big free throws when the game was tight. That’s a senior. And I thougth we played a lot better defense in the fourth quarter, after not playing so well for the first three.”
“They only had a few field goals in the fourth quarter,” said Conners of the Cougars. “And we only got to the line three times. I don’t understand that. It was getting a litle frustrating.”
After Palmyra enjoyed a 29-27 cushion in the locker room, Elco won the third period by a 16-12 count and carried a 43-41 edge into the fourth. Saturday marked the second time in as many nights that the Raiders were outscored by a wide margin down the stretch.
“The thing would be if we lose this game it’s like, ‘Darn, here we go again’,” said Conrad. “It takes a little bit of the edge off. I liked the way our defense performed down the strech. That’s how we want to play the entire game.”
“We got the game in the 50s,” said Conners. “We expect to win games when they’re in the 50s. We stress hard defense. My gut feeling is that we didn’t run our offense and we weren’t organized. It doesn’t work out well when we’re not. We just need everybody in the boat rowing the same way. Everybody needs to be doing their job.”
Chris Lynn stroked four three-point field goals and led Palmyra with 12 points, guard Shawn Robinson contributed 10 points and wing Adam Newhard went for another 10. Anthony Pletz paced the Raiders with 16 points, while teammate Nate Litschi recorded 10.
Robinson was named to the all-tournament team, as was Drew Gerberich of Elco.
“I think we’re going to look at it like we did some good things, but there are some other things we need to improve on,” said Conrad. “Elco had some guys step up. Number 33 (Gerberich) really shoots the ball well. And I thought we did a credible job on him. Pletz really hurt us in the first half. But I thought they (the Raiders) were very solid. Coach Conners does a good job with them.”
“They’re a tough team,” said Conners of the Cougars. “They have multiple guys who can score. Coach Conrad has gotten the message across about defense. We talked to our guys about winning the rebound battle. In the first half, we did. In the second half, they did.”
Palmyra rode seven points from Robinson to an 18-15 opening-quarter lead, then Lynn knocked down three of his treys to account for nine of the Cougars’ 11 second-quarter points. Pletz had 15 points before halftime, and just one after it.
“Our on-ball defense when playing man-to-man is a concern,” said Conners. “We’re struggling guarding the ball. That’s something we’ve got to work on in practice.”