PALMYRA – Palmyra is not a boys’ basketball team that can afford to play from behind, and the Cougars are a club which must play defense. Those two facts are utterly and unquestionably linked.
They might also provide keys for Palmyra’s improvement this season.
On Tuesday night at Palmyra High School, the Cougars’ defense put them in an early hole, then didn’t produce the ‘stops’ they needed to dig out of it, during a 69-46 loss to Cedar Cliff. The contest served as both Palmyra’s home and Mid-Penn Keystone Division openers.
With the outcome, Palmyra slipped to 1-2 on the young year.
“I think we’re going to get better,” said Palmyra head coach Pete Conrad. “We’re trying to learn where we can get better and what we can work on.
“You’ve got to continue to get better,” continued Conrad, “and get better at what you’re not good at. We’re trying to move forward. Our only real goal this season is to get better.”
Cedar Cliff shot the ball extremely well all night, but especially early. The Colts never trailed after tallying the first five points of the contest.
Free throws from junior Anthony Alviani and freshman Eli Becker in the middle of the opening quarter pulled Palmyra to within 11-8 of the lead. And Palmyra’s Kasey Shughart tallied the final two buckets of the first period to draw his side to within 17-14 of the Colts.
“It’s on me,” said Conrad. “We weren’t prepared. I always pride myself on that, being prepared.
“Each one (playing defense and playing with the lead) are especially important,” added Conrad. “You just have to figure out how to do it better next time.”
The Colts opened the second quarter on a 9-2 run to extend their lead to 26-16. Roman Byler’s three-pointer for Palmyra momentarily stemmed the momentum, but Cedar Cliff notched eight of the first half’s final 12 points to open a 34-22 halftime cushion.
“In difficult positions, you look for senior leadership to pick you up,” said Conrad. “And we have some young guys playing. There were a lot of missed assignments on defense. We didn’t understand some things.
“At times, we did some good things,” Conrad continued. “At times, we had responses to their runs. One of our assistants calls them SIWs – self-inflicted wounds. How do you get in the position of having to play from behind? The reason is too many SIWs.”
Palmyra’s scoring was led by Shughart’s nine points. While the Cougars at times struggled offensively, they did manage to make 12 of their 14 free throw attempts.
Cedar Cliff scored 42 points on two-point field goals. The Colts’ balanced attack featured 13 points from Charlie Werner, 11 by Nick Strain and ten from Joey Zvorsky.
“I thought Roman Byler played well,” said Conrad. “He battled. He was in the right spots. For a young guy, he’s trying to do the right things.’
Palmyra’s second-half run never materialized.
Cedar Cliff registered the initial five points of the third quarter to push its advantage to 39-22. The closest the Cougars would come the rest of the way was 40-29, on a lay-in from Byler.
Cedar Cliff closed the third quarter on an 11-2 burst and carried a 51-29 bulge into the final eight minutes of action. The Colts’ lead reached 63-31 three minutes into the fourth quarter.
“At halftime, we tried to talk about some of those assignments we were missing,” said Conrad. “It was painfully obvious that we were not prepared. There’s things we’ve got to get to in practice.”
12/10 vs Cedar Cliff, 7 p.m.
12/13 @ Bishop McDevitt, 7:30 p.m.
12/17 vs Red Land, 7 p.m.
12/20 @ Hershey, 7:30 p.m.
12/21 vs Cedar Crest, 7 p.m.
1/2 vs Lower Dauphin, 7 p.m.
1/4 @ Lebanon, 6 p.m.
1/7 vs Mechanicsburg, 7 p.m.
1/10 vs Susquehanna Twp., 7 p.m.
1/11 @ Manheim Central, Noon
1/14 @ Cedar Cliff, 7 p.m.
1/15 @ Annville-Cleona, 7:30 p.m.
1/17 vs Bishop McDevitt, 7 p.m.
1/21 @ Red Land, 7:30 p.m.
1/24 vs Hershey, 7 p.m.
1/25 vs Milton Hershey, 7 p.m.
1/28 @ Lower Dauphin, 7:30 p.m.
1/31 @ Mechanicsburg, 7 p.m.
2/1 @ Northern Lebanon, 7 p.m.
2/4 @ Susquehanna Twp., 7:30 p.m.