ELIZABETHTOWN – This one is going to sting for awhile.
But when the pain does subside – and it will subside – the Palmyra girls’ basketball team will remember the 2021 season as a success. The Cougars will remember the triumphs, the relationships, the adversities overcome.
The Cougars will remember what was, not what could’ve been. They’ll never forget the journey.
On Wednesday night at Elizabethtown High School, in the opening round of the District Three Class AAAAA playoffs, Palmyra endured a heart-breaking, season-ending 35-34 loss to the home-standing Bears. After the lead had changed hands on a number of occasions, Cougar Alyssa Marrero’s attempt at a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer was strong and long.
Out of a timeout with four seconds remaining, Marrero appeared to be the second option of a play drawn up by the Palmyra coaching staff. Jade Love-Morris had converted a pair of free throws with 49 seconds left to provide Elizabethtown with a 35-34 edge, and the eventual winning points.
“It was a successful season, but not as successful as we would’ve liked,” said Palmyra rookie head coach John Polly. “We’d all love to still be playing. Overall, I think the girls enjoyed this year. We exceeded the win total from last year, and we competed every time out.
“Once we got our footing, we took off,” continued Polly. “No one could take us lightly. They (his players) know they can play with anybody, and that they’re a good team. They’re solid players, and they played for each other. We fell short, but we had a heck of a ride.”
Palmyra, the 14th seed, concluded its campaign at 8-8. Third-seeded Elizabethtown improved to 13-3 overall and moved into Friday’s quarterfinal round of the District Three Class AAAAA tournament.
“We did get what we wanted,” said Polly of Marrero’s last-second shot. “We wanted to isolate Zoe (Smith) on the block. We thought we had an advantage, and it looked like it was there momentarily. But they (the Bears) adjusted and someone stepped in. It closed quickly.
“Alyssa Marerro taking a ‘three’, I have no problem with that at the end,” Polly continued. “I can’t argue with the shot selection. We had a three-point shooter take a ‘three’.”
Becker’s three-pointer, and two subsequent free throws from her, gave Palmyra a 34-33 edge, with 1:03 remaining. A minute earlier, Geneiva Martin’s foul shot had ended a near-seven-minute Cougar scoring drought that began late in the third period.
“I told the girls that the level of intensity that we played with throughout the season, we had to step it up a notch. And they did,” said Polly. “We took the third seed down to the wire. I’m very proud of them. It was a valiant effort. It was a great job by them (his players). I was really happy with the effort.
“During one timeout, I said to the girls, ‘Did you really think they (the Bears) were not going to make a run or two at us?’,” added Polly. “I thought we played the last minute-and-a-half flawlessly.”
Early in the third quarter, a 9-3 run put the Cougars in position to pull off an upset, up 28-19. Martin notched five points during the sequence, while Smith contributed four.
But Elizabethtown posted the final six points of the third, then registered the first six of the fourth quarter.
“I told them at halftime to just continue to be patient on offense,” said Polly. “We switched our offense against their zone early in the second quarter, and it really opened up. The message at halftime was patience on offense, defensively, keep up the intensity, rebound and take better care of the ball. I told them that opportunities would present themselves if we were patient.”
With a dozen points, Smith paced the Cougar scoring, and Becker pumped in ten. Elizabethtown outscored Palmyra 22-14 on two-point field goals.
“We were right there,” said Polly. “When you have a shot to win the game at the end, it’s tough. It’s even tougher with six seniors. I think Katelyn Becker said it best when she spoke, ‘This doesn’t feel good, but remember it. Because a week from now, when you don’t feel like going to open gym, you’ll remember.’
“I told the girls that this was going to happen again and again,” Polly added. “I thanked them for their hard work and for getting through multiple challenges. It was a fun first year. Every kid played for each other. It wasn’t for a lack of hustle.”
With Smith accounting for all of her side’s points, Palmyra jumped out to an early 6-2 lead. But the Bears pieced together an 11-0 run that gave the home team a 13-6 advantage.
On an inside deuce and an outside trey, Becker and Palmyra recorded the final five points of the first half to take a 19-16 margin to the break.
“When the players picked Katelyn Becker, Genieva Martin and Zoe Smith as their captains at the beginning of the season, they couldn’t have done a better job,” said Polly. “The level of respect they had for the coaching staff, and that they got from the players, was phenomenal. You need that type of leadership. It can’t be one voice. We always let them have their say, and it was always on point.
“I think my favorite part of this season was the relationships we built,” concluded Polly. “Their acceptance of a brand new coaching staff, and how much they bought it, was special. I’ll always be ‘Coach’ to them, if they want me to.”
|2021-02-03||H||vs||Mifflin County(6)||W||48-43 OT|
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