PALMYRA – It may be the most compelling argument for never letting up. Because once you stop attacking, you risk losing that momentum for good.
After a fast start against rival Hershey on Wednesday night, the Palmyra boys’ basketball team paid dearly for taking its collective foot off the gas pedal. The Cougars never regained the momentum that had generated an early 14-point lead and fell to the Trojans 53-47.
After surrendering most of its advantage, Palmyra was whistled for a technical foul with 5:17 to go and the subsequent Trojan free throws gave them a 41-40 lead. The Cougars were still right there, down 48-47 thanks to a Logan Stovall inside move with 1:33 to go.
But Hershey tallied the contest’s final five points, all on free throws, as the Cougars were guilty of turnovers and rushed shots.
The loss dropped Palmyra to 9-5 on the year and 4-4 in the Keystone Division of the Mid-Penn Conference. Hershey upped its overall record to 6-6 and its division record to 4-4.
“When it’s that early, you’ve got to keep playing,” said Palmyra head coach Pete Conrad. “The game’s not over. You’ve got to keep attacking. We may have thought it was going to be easy. I knew Hershey was playing great. Maybe I didn’t do a good enough job of communicating that to my players.
“A lot of that (improved defense and rebounding) has played out,” Conrad added. “The games we’ve played well, our energy has been unbelievable. And when we’ve lost, it hasn’t been there. A friend of mine told me an under-rated skill is getting the ball. But I have nothing but positive things to say about Hershey.”
After Palmyra had enjoyed a 29-19 margin at the break, the Trojans outscored the Cougars 12-6 during the opening four minutes of the second half to pull within 35-31. But Palmyra ran off the next five points – three from Brad Mackey and a deuce by Trey Baker – to push its margin back to 40-31.
Then Hershey held the Cougars without a point for the initial three minutes of the final quarter to take the lead.
“I don’t think we did a great job of attacking,” said Conrad. “And they (the Trojans) really got energized. It started in the second quarter, at the end of the first half, when they were able to cut into it.”
It was all Palmyra early. The Cougars came out on fire, limited Hershey to two-of-16 shooting in the first quarter and opened an 18-4 lead.
A Ross Romanoski foul shot 2:44 before intermission gave Palmyra a 26-10 cushion.
“We were dissatisfied when we were 3-3 and worked hard to change it,” said Conrad. “Then we got to 9-3 and maybe we became satisfied.
“I thought we played very well against Susquehanna,” added Conrad. “There was a little bit of a hangover against Annville. I think at times we’ve played well. But at other times we haven’t been as good as we need to be.”
Baker and Stovall finished with 11 points apiece to pace Palmyra. Hershey, which outscored the Cougars 18-5 at the free throw line, got 17 points out of Jack Gunkel.
“I do think everybody is going to beat up on each other,” said Conrad of the Keystone Division race. “Nobody’s going to win the league with one loss. Nobody’s going to win it with two losses. I don’t think we’ve dismissed it (the title). But we’ve got to play better.”