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IMG_6828BY JEFF FALK

PALMYRA – Work hard in practice. Listen and learn. Live in the moment.

Sure there are things that can make it more effective – speed it up, if you will. But the mere concept of it suggests patience and time.

The Palmyra boys’ basketball team has always been – and continues to be – about the process. That approach will serve the Cougars espcially well this season.

IMG_6719With six-footers across its starting lineup, Palmyra enjoyed a simply marvelous campaign last year. But while they certainly won’t be as long this season, perhaps a bigger concern for the Cougars will be a lack of experience.

“What we do is talk about ‘process’,” said Pete Conrad, Palmyra’s ninth-year head coach. “What’s our process for getting better as a team? We don’t have goals for certain numbers of wins. Things like turnovers and defensive rebounds are process pieces. We have kids who make personal goals for themselves. But if you have a goal and don’t have a way of getting there, then it’s wishing.

“You can ball a lot of it as experience,” continued Conrad. “If you haven’t played a lot of varsity, then you’ve got to work it out. They’ve (his players) got to experience it. And when you face some game adversity – which is going to happen whether you win or lose – experienced players know you’ve just got to react by playing your game.”

So in a way, the Cougars can’t know where they’re going until they understand where they’ve been. With that now graduated core, Palmyra compiled a spectacular 22-6 overall mark in 2016-17, qualified for the PIAA playoffs and even won a game there.

IMG_6695“I think it matters in that that group was made up of great role models,” said Conrad of a year ago. “These kids looked up to them, and they buy into things. Now we’ve got a younger team. We haven’t talked about wins and losses. Our goal is always to get better in our process, and get better everyday. They (his players) saw that last year’s guys were able to progress in the process. There’s not a difference in how we prepare.

“I’ve been pleased with the way things have been going,” added Conrad. “This is a great group of kids. They’re a very competitive group of kids. They have set their goals high. I would say rarely have I had a team that has bought in the way this one has. That, to me, is very encouraging.”

Part of the process is stepping up and assuming new roles.

This winter, the Cougars will be led by the trio of 6-3 senior forward Nick Jelliff, Jacob Bender, a 5-10 senior guard, and Jacob Wagner, a 5-9 junior guard. Palmyra is also seeking key contributions from 6-2 junior forward Braeden Drescher and 6-0 junior forward Kyle Wasalewski.

“The object of preseason practice has been to get better overall. That’s the first thing,” said Conrad. “If you’re a better version of yourself, that’s a success. This year we’ll be much smaller, but we’re better suited to deal with dribble penetration. But then there’s a concern about defending the rim. We’ve got a bunch of players who are tough, scrappy kids.

“I would start with Jelliff,” Conrad continued. “We always felt he could be a good player. What people didn’t always see in practice, there were a lot of times (last season) when Jelliff was our third or fourth best player. I really have a lot of faith in his ability to be a key piece. Then we’ve got quick guards. We have some shooting. And balance can be a strength for us as well.”

Palmyra boasts a strong sophomore class. Not only does that bode well for the future, but the Class of 2020 will also be called upon to contribute this year.

IMG_6668Tenth-graders Kasey Shughart, Christian Kreiser, Josh Mark and Nick Morder are all guards. At 6-5, Quentin Leonard provides some height.

“There are different challenges for every group,” said Conrad. “I don’t know that the challenges this year are any greater. There’s probably more teaching on the fundamental level.

“I’d like to think we always emphasize defense,” Conrad added. “Sometimes, people get pace and defense confused. We need to be careful with pace. We want to invite a pace where we don’t turn the ball over. Our formula for success includes a combination of pace and defense.”

The Cougars will open their 2017-18 slate on the road, December 8th against Northern Lebanon at the Donegal Tip-Off Tournament.

“It’s a public school,” said Conrad, when asked to reflect on the health of his program. “There’s always going to be elements of cycles. I also think we’ve got kids who are invested in the idea that we can have success. I look down further in our program and our ninth-grade class is thin. I’m pleased where the program is. You’re always trying to tweak things to churn out successful teams. I can live with that set-up.’

 

 

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To purchase images in this article email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com, or to view more go to https://lebanonsportsbuzz.com/photo-gallery/.

 

 

 

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 2017-18 Palmyra Boys’ Basketball Schedule

DATE OPPONENT TIME LOCATION
12/08
@Northern Lebanon
6:00 PM Northern Lebanon High School
12/09
@Donegal
7:00 PM Donegal High School
12/12 *
@Mechanicsburg
7:30 PM Mechanicsburg High School
12/15 *
@Susquehanna Twp.
7:30 PM Susquehanna Twp. High School
12/16
Milton Hershey
7:00 PM Palmyra High School
12/18 *
Cedar Cliff
7:30 PM Palmyra High School
12/20 *
Bishop McDevitt
7:30 PM Palmyra High School
12/22
@Cocalico
7:30 PM Cocalico High School
12/27
@Elco
2:00 PM Elco High School
01/02 *
Red Land
7:30 PM Palmyra High School
01/05 *
@Hershey
7:30 PM Hershey High School
01/06
@Lebanon
6:00 PM Lebanon High School
01/09 *
Lower Dauphin
7:30 PM Palmyra High School
01/12 *
Mechanicsburg
7:30 PM Palmyra High School
01/16 *
Susquehanna Twp.
7:30 PM Palmyra High School
01/19 *
@Cedar Cliff
7:30 PM Cedar Cliff High School
01/20
@West York
3:45 PM West York High School
01/23 *
@Bishop McDevitt
7:30 PM Bishop McDevitt High School
01/26 *
@Red Land
7:30 PM Red Land High School
01/30 *
Hershey
7:30 PM Palmyra High School
02/02 *
@Lower Dauphin
7:30 PM Lower Dauphin High School

 

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