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IMG_4005BY JEFF FALK

HERSHEY – It is one of the best local stories running, over what has become a real feel-good winter season. Palmyra has continued to improve and evolve to a point where it has almost become the best boys’ basketball team it can be.

It is a turn of events that only the Cougars could’ve seen coming.

On Tuesday night, Palmyra remained red-hot by pulling out a dramatic 54-52 triumph on rival Hershey’s home floor. After surrendering all of a 15-point first-half lead, the Cougars won it when Trojan big man Dylan Painter made only two of three necessary free throws to tie the game, with four seconds remaining.

IMG_4094Fittingly, Cougar sophomore Isaac Blatt added the Cougars’ final point, on a free throw a second later, because it was Blatt who Palmyra leaned on heavily in crunch time. Blatt tallied ten of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, as he and the Cougars made play after play when it mattered most.

The win was Palmyra’s fifth in-a-row, and eighth over its last nine outings. The Cougars, who were ranked eighth in the latest District Three Class AAA ratings, now stand at 11-7 on the season and 4-6 in the Keystone Division of the Mid-Penn Conference.

The loss dropped Hershey, which had defeated the Cougars 64-46 in Palmyra on Dec. 16,  to 9-7 on the year and 4-6 in the Keystone.

“I think we’re a lot better than we were,” said Palmyra head coach Pete Conrad, whose club stood 3-6 before Christmas. “One night, we were over at Mechanicsburg, and they (the Wildcats) made a run, like all teams in the Keystone Division are going to. I look out on the court and our guys are smiling. It was obviously where they wanted to be. A month ago, it would’ve been slumped shoulders. But the best thing is I think we can keep growing.

IMG_4042“This is not about me or coaching,” Conrad continued. “This is the kids. They’ve been phenomenal. It’s not about coaching. These guys work hard.”

After climbing out of its double-digit hole, the momentum was squarely in Hershey’s corner heading into the final quarter. But behind Blatt, the Cougars responded in kind.

Blatt opened the decisive period with a jumper, and three minutes later drilled the three-pointer that gave Palmyra a 47-46 edge. Then Blatt collaborated with teammate Austin Yetter on a 6-0 run that gave the Cougars a 53-48 margin with 2:09 to go.

“That’s a tough spot. That’s hard for any high school kid,” said Conrad of the pressure on Painter with four seconds to go. “Isaac has really come into his own. As a sophomore, earlier in the year, there was a tendency to defer in tough situations. We feel we have five or six guys who can beat you. He (Blatt) felt like he could take his guy in the fourth quarter.

IMG_4086“These guys wanted to play this game,” added Conrad. “There’s been some talk back and forth between the two teams. They (the Trojans) said we weren’t contenders. I’m not sure either of us are contenders.”

The Cougars had enjoyed a 36-24 advantage at the break, before Hershey made its inevitable run in the third quarter.

Hershey outscored Palmyra 13-2 over a 5:42 stretch to knot the score at 40. Palmyra did salvage a measure of momentum with 28 seconds remaining in the stanza, when Yetter connected on a floater to put the Cougars back on top, 42-40.

“We’ve gotten much, much better,” said Conrad. “So much of it is comprehension of roles. I’m real proud of my guys. Any time we needed a response tonight, we came up with one.

IMG_4097“I thought we had an advantage in terms of spreading them (the Trojans) out,” Conrad added. “But I thought we settled for some shots at times.”

Yetter pumped in a team-high 15 points to complement Blatt’s 14, while point guard Eric Lynn knocked down a trio of three-point field goals and finished with 12 points. Palmyra’s only miss during a ten-for-11 night at the free throw line was Blatt’s with three seconds remaining.

Painter accounted for 21 Hershey points, and teammate Taylor Sweeney recorded 15.

“We thought we had some good match-ups,” said Conrad. “We took advantage of them early. They (the Trojans) handled us by 18 earlier in the season. I’m sure Coach (Paul) Blackburn told his kids we were improved. But it’s human nature not to believe it until you see it.”

IMG_4047By spreading Hershey’s man-to-man out and taking their defenders to ‘the cup’ off the dribble, the Cougars were extremely efficient offensively in the first half. Try this on for size: 15-for-25 shooting from the field – 60 percent – with three turnovers.

A jumper from Yetter and a drive in the lane by Frazier put the finishing touches on the Cougars’ opening volley, a 15-5 run over the first four minutes of play. Palmyra also notched the final eight points of the first quarter – on a Yetter inside maneuver, Lynn’s old-school three-point play and a Braden Vernet trey – to assume a 23-9 advantage.

A three-pointer by Lynn 2:09 into the second stanza extended Palmyra’s lead to 30-15.

“When kids go from not believing in themselves to believing in themselves, there’s not much more meaningful than that,” said Conrad. “It has been confidence in our roles. We have such good complementary pieces. It just took us awhile to figure things out.”

IMG_4049Palmyra (54)

PLAYER FGM FTM FTA 3PM PTS_TOT FT%
Isaac Blatt 4 5 6 1 14 0.833
Bobby Dorta 1 2 2 4 1
Ian Frazier 1 2 2 4 1
Ethan Harro 0 0 0 0 0
Eric Lynn 4 1 1 3 12 1
Noah Martin 0 0 0 0 0
Braden Vernet 2 0 0 1 5 0
Austin Yetter 6 2 2 1 15 1

IMG_4023Hershey (52)

PLAYER FGM FTM FTA 3PM PTS_TOT FT%
Luke Blackburn 0 0 0 0 0
Matthew Brier 4 0 1 8 0
Matt Miller 1 0 0 2 0
Dylan Painter 5 10 14 1 21 0.714
Taylor Sweeney 5 4 4 1 15 1
Jacob Wilson 2 0 0 2 6 0
Jordan Wix Rauch 0 0 0 0 0
  • Team 1 2 3 4 Final
    Palmyra
    23 13 6 12 54
    Hershey
    9 15 16 12 52
 Mid-Penn Conference
IMG_4027 Keystone Division 
TEAM LEAGUE OVERALL
Susquehanna Twp. 9-1 14-3
Cedar Cliff 8-2 15-2
Bishop McDevitt 8-2 12-3
Palmyra 4-6 11-7
Hershey 4-6 9-7
Lower Dauphin 3-7 8-10
Mechanicsburg 3-7 7-10
Red Land 1-9 5-12

 

Palmyra 2014-15 Results

DATE OPPONENT TIME RESULT
12/05
Cedar Crest
6:30 PM L 44-62
12/06
@Elizabethtown
6:30 PM W 67-52
12/09 *
Mechanicsburg
7:30 PM L 56-68
12/12 *
@Red Land
7:30 PM L 46-59
12/13
York Catholic
1:30 PM W 63-56
12/16 *
Hershey
7:30 PM L 46-64
12/19 *
@Susquehanna Twp.
7:30 PM L 54-81
12/20
Muhlenberg
2:00 PM W 61-53
12/23 *
Cedar Cliff
7:30 PM L 46-56
12/29 #
@Donegal
4:00 PM W 67-47
12/30 #
@Ephrata
8:00 PM W 50-45
01/03
@Annville-Cleona
8:30 PM W 71-28
01/06 *
Bishop McDevitt
7:30 PM L 71-81
01/09 *
@Lower Dauphin
7:30 PM W 52-46
01/13 *
@Mechanicsburg
7:30 PM W 61-55
01/16 *
Red Land
7:30 PM W 67-62
01/17
Susquehannock
4:00 PM W 73-52
01/20 *
@Hershey
7:30 PM W 54-52

IMG_3981District Three

 Class AAA Rankings

AAA School W L T Rating
1 Bishop McDevitt 12 2 0 .809121
2 Susquehanna Township 13 3 0 .801648
3 Steelton Highspire 12 2 0 .752977
4 Manheim Central 16 1 0 .743289
5 Boiling Springs 13 2 0 .719067
6 West York Area 11 3 0 .705151
7 East Pennsboro 10 4 0 .669566
8 Palmyra Area 10 7 0 .656259
9 Cocalico 11 5 0 .647392
10 Conrad Weiser 10 5 0 .622499
11 Milton Hershey 8 7 0 .617243
IMG_405412 Lancaster Catholic 11 6 0 .609761
13 Eastern York 8 6 0 .605958
14 Gettysburg Area 9 6 0 .591872
15 Dover Area 9 7 0 .586890
16 Lampeter Strasburg 9 8 0 .581759
17 Eastern Lebanon County 10 7 0 .578606
18 Wyomissing Area 9 6 0 .575226
19 Berks Catholic 7 7 0 .574568
20 Twin Valley 9 6 0 .560973
21 Bermudian Springs 8 6 0 .518023
22 James Buchanan 6 9 0 .516864
23 Fleetwood Area 9 7 0 .515626
24 West Perry 6 10 0 .476346
25 York Suburban 5 12 0 .469373
IMG_406726 Donegal 6 11 0 .458878
27 Northern Lebanon 7 10 0 .446341
28 Middletown Area 4 12 0 .427814
29 Pequea Valley 5 11 0 .413785
30 Kennard Dale 4 12 0 .410350
31 Schuylkill Valley 5 10 0 .398983
32 Big Spring 3 12 0 .351587
33 Susquehannock 1 13 0 .332968
34 Oley Valley 2 13 0 .275826
35 Hamburg Area 0 17 0 .240899
36 Littlestown 0 16 0 .237855

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