BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – The Palmyra boys’ basketball team called 2015-16 a season last night.
The Cougars just weren’t sure whether to call it a successful season or an unsuccessful one, a consistent season or an inconsistent one, a memorable season or a forget-able one.
On Tuesday night, during the opening round of the District Three Class AAA playoffs, Palmyra endured a heart-wrenching, year-ending 45-44 home loss to Gettysburg that was very representative of its season as a whole. For if the Cougars had made one more shot, one more play, one less turnover, one might have been able to definitively portray their season as a good one.
But as it was, in the last six seconds of regulation, Palmyra committed a costly turnover and – after the Warriors obliged by missing the front end of a one-and-one – watched Bryant Willis’ potential game-winning, three-pointer from the left wing at the buzzer, clang off the rim. There was also the matter of Isaac Blatt’s missed three throw with 37 seconds to go that would’ve tied the game at 45.
Yet there were plenty of other times when the Cougars performed admirably, certainly well enough to win. Go figure.
The loss ended the seventh-seeded Cougars’ campaign at 17-6. Palmyra, which at one point of the season owned a 13-3 mark, ended up losing two of its last three outings.
Gettysburg, the tenth seed, moved to 13-8 and into Friday’s quarterfinal round.
“I would say ‘inconsistent’,” said Palmyra head coach Pete Conrad. “Allegedly when we were playing good, we were playing inferior competition. But that’s basketball.
“There’s certainly different criterion for success,” Conrad continued. “I don’t think anyone thought we’d have that type of record. But we had loftier goals. I had a great, great group of guys. But we wanted more.”
Cougar Sam Shiels’ only basket of the evening was a three-pointer, and it came 3:10 into the fourth quarter, snapped a tie and gave Palmyra a 41-38 lead. Two-and-half minutes later, Blatt scored on a hard ‘take’ to the rack to knot the game at 43.
But the Cougars managed just the one point over the game’s final 2:26 and Gettysburg’s Ravaughn Dillard notched what would prove to be the winning basket on a stick-back, with 47 ticks remaining.
“We had that little defensive sequence when we needed to,” said Conrad. “But we didn’t play offense the way we needed to. We certainly let them get to the rim. We let those guys do things in their comfort zone.
“You have to give a lot of credit to Gettysburg,” added Conrad. “They’re one of the best teams we saw all year. They’ve got a boat load of good players.”
The Cougars were trailing 29-23 midway through the third quarter when Blatt was taken down hard from behind while attempting a dunk. He was shaken up, but returned and when he did, it looked like he might single-handedly take over the game for Palmyra.
Blatt tallied the first eight points of the final period to turn a 35-29 deficit into a 37-35 lead. He converted an offensive rebound into a conventional three-point play, he nailed a three-pointer from the top of the key and his slam of an offensive rebound whipped the home crowd into a frenzy.
“Many times when he’s angry and gets a fire lit under him, he can take over a game,” said Conrad of Blatt. “It was an obvious flagrant foul that wasn’t called.
“They (the Warriors) played a triangle and two (on Austin Yetter and Blatt), and that created a certain amount of discomfort for us,” added Conrad. “We play through those two guys. Those guys have got to be comfortable. But we need to make plays. Clearly we weren’t comfortable. We were sloppy.”
With 14 points and seven rebounds, Blatt more than held his own. But Yetter was limited to eight points – well below his season average – and just two over the final three quarters. The Cougars actually made more three-point baskets – eight – than they did two-pointers – seven.
Gettysburg out rebounded Palmyra by a slight 28-25 margin. The Cougars committed eight turnovers to the Warriors’ 11.
“These match-ups don’t mean anything,” said Conrad of the seven-ten meeting. “It’s a totally arbitrary system. It makes no sense. The first thing they need to do, anybody over .500 should get in. But different programs have different standards of what a good season is. Look at Elco and Steel-High. It’s a silly system. You’ve got to have something, but the seedings don’t mean very much.”
Yetter stroked a pair of three pointers and Willis had five points, as the Cougars trailed 12-11 after the first eight minutes of action. The Warriors enjoyed a 22-20 margin in the locker room.
“I’m not looking too much at the record,” said Conrad. “But if you’re trying to get from point A to point B, and you ask guys to do something and they do what you ask them to do, then the season was a success. It was a success in terms of how these guys worked and always did their best.
“We’re trying to win,” concluded Conrad. “We’re trying to win.”
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2015-16 Palmyra Boys’ Basketball Results
|6:00 PM||W 64-56|
|7:30 PM||W 66-49|
|7:30 PM||W 73-54|
|7:30 PM||L 54-58|
|7:30 PM||L 55-60|
|1:30 PM||W 52-49|
|7:30 PM||W 58-46|
|7:30 PM||L 57-63|
|2:00 PM||W 47-46|
|6:00 PM||W 56-49|
|4:30 PM||W 71-42|
|7:30 PM||W 73-66|
|7:30 PM||W 74-58|
|7:30 PM||W 75-46|
|8:00 PM||W 70-56|
|7:30 PM||W 79-60|
|7:30 PM||L 56-67|
|4:00 PM||W 68-56|
|7:30 PM||W 81-73|
|7:30 PM||W 59-51|
|7:30 PM||L 60-62|
|7:30 PM||W 52-50|
|6:30 PM||L 44-45|
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