BY JEFF FALK
Sure we all like it when things are going great and we’re riding that emotional crest. But sometimes in this crazy life, it’s OK just to get through to the next day.
In playoff basketball terms that’s known as ‘surviving’.
The Palmyra girls’ basketball team is one of four still standing in a wide-open and very competitive District Three Class AAA tournament after surviving West York 52-50 on Saturday afternoon. At East Pennsboro High School, the Cougars blew a couple of earlier leads, and then regained it late.
What proved to be the decisive points came from freshman Kristin Smoluk in the form of two free throws with 31 seconds left. They gave Palmyra a 51-49 edge, and the Cougars erased much of the remaining clock with unintentional intentional fouls.
But Palmyra didn’t emerge completely from the forest until a defensive double-team forced a West York traveling violation with two seconds to go. Junior Gabi Gunderman provided the final margin by converting a free throw with less than a second showing on the game clock.
With the win, Palmyra improved to 22-3 and slipped into the District Three Class AAA semifinals, which will be played Wednesday at Hershey’s Giant Center. The Cougars’ next foe will be fifth-seeded and 24-3 Lancaster Catholic.
The triumph also assured Palmyra a spot in the upcoming PIAA Class AAA playoffs.
Eight-seeded West York dropped to 18-8 and into the loser’s bracket of the event.
On the strength of senior Chelsea Ebersole’s downtown shooting, the Cougars opened a 43-32 lead as the third quarter was coming to a close. But West York would score 18 of the game’s next 22 points to take a 50-47 lead with under two minutes to play.
At one point early in the final stanza, West York turned three straight Cougar turnovers into lay-ups.
A Maddie Good bucket with 1:20 remaining had pulled the Cougars to within 50-49.
Scoring inside and out, sophomore forward Carly Richardson, who finished with a game-high 21 points, came up with big baskets seemingly every time Palmyra needed one. Ebersole complemented her with 10 points.
Much of the early action was back-and-forth, until Palmyra pieced together an 11-0 flurry in the middle of the second quarter to open up a 27-14 advantage. Ebersole, Smoluk and M. Good were the key contributors to the uprising.
Palmyra enjoyed a 29-20 lead at the break, before West York opened the second half on an 8-2 run. But out of a Cougar time out, Richardson tallied six straight points to make it a 37-38 Palmyra advantage.
Richardson sank a trio of three-pointers in the first quarter that ended with Palmyra ahead 13-10.