BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – There are really only two ways to go with goal-setting in highly competitive team sports – pursuing internal goals or pursuing external goals.
This season, the Palmyra boys’ basketball team has chosen to focus more on internal goals, with the hopes that if they are attained, external goals will fall into place. The two biggest advantages to this approach are that internal goals are much more realistic and obtainable, and it limits the effects of outside sources.
The Cougars’ stated goal is really quite simple: get better every day, improve every practice, elevate your play every play. And with a fair share of size, athleticism and seniors, the mindset could lead to some secondary goals as the 2016-17 campaign unfolds.
“We’ve gotten away from it,” said Palmyra head coach Pete Conrad of the goal-setting process. “In the past, we talked about goals. We just talk about being process-oriented. We want to prepare to the best of our ability everyday. We feel if we do that, it will take care of the other goals.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a change from other years,” continued Conrad. “We’ve always talked about the process and today being the most important practice of the year. We tried to extend it. I would say we want to improve everywhere. In every aspect of what we do, we want to get better everyday.”
It’s a philosophy that’s already been embraced by star forward Isaac Blatt, perhaps the top player in Lebanon County.
“Coach Conrad doesn’t want us focusing too far into the future,” said Blatt. “We work on goals in practice that can help us in games. We get better every practice. Our goals is always to improve our habits. We’ve gotten better, but there’s definitely room for improvement.”
Palmyra is coming off a 17-6 season in which it overachieved a bit. But it ended with a disappointing loss to Gettysburg in the opening round of the District Three playoffs.
“It was a great group of guys to work with,” said Conrad, who’s in his eighth season of being in charge. “They were guys who turned the corner in a lot of ways. They worked together. They played together. It was definitely a positive. Nothing but positives.
“This is a totally different season,” Conrad continued. “Two totally different teams. Guys are assuming totally different roles.”
“I definitely remember the playoff loss,” said Blatt. “We had a really good regular season, but we didn’t play well in the playoff loss. That’s our focus this year: go deep in the playoffs and play well every game.
“It’s definitely on our minds,” Blatt added. “Even thought it was a good season, it was disappointing going one-and-out.”
It would seem the Cougars possess the right personnel to go with their ultra-focused approach. Eight seniors, a good versatile group with proven skills, six players over 6-3 among their top ten and Blatt leading the way.
“We’re more like long,” said Conrad. “We’ll play some lineups with three 6-3 guys. We’re very long. But I don’t know if we have too many traditional forwards.
“That’s (eight seniors) a lot,” added Conrad. “They’ve always been a good group. They like each other. They play together.”
“On the offensive end, everybody on the team can make a play,” said Blatt. “Everyone can score. On defense. we’re really long. I think we need to work on the defensive end especially. That’s the part where we need to work on our habits. We need to guard the ball better.”
Blatt, a 6-5 senior guard who can shoot, slash and jump, is the one true known on a Cougar club loaded with potential. Braden Vernet, a 6-3 senior, will also assume a leadership role, while 5-8 senior guard Sam Shiels, 6-3 senior Ben Von Stetten, 6-4 senior guard Alec Cleckner and 6-4 senior guard Bryant Willis are all pieces which fit together to solve the Palmyra puzzle.
“I think maturity is a strength,” said Conrad. “We have good kids who want to be successful, but also want to be good in a broader sense. Sometimes as a coaching staff we work so hard on Xs and Os. But sometimes when you have those intangibles it solves a lot of your problems.
“We have a bunch of guys who have had success in other sports,” Conrad continued. “I think that’s important. That kind of competing translates.”
“My role this year is to be more of a leader of the team,” said Blatt. “Braden (Vernet) and I know what it’s like going through an entire season. My job is to bring the team up and bring energy. Play so everyone else follows our lead.”
The Cougars’ athleticism and depth will extend to their bench. They will be manifested through the play of 6-3 junior forward Nick Jelliff, 5-11 senior guard Carl Reigle, 5-9 senior forward Alon Rhette and 5-8 sophomore guard Jake Wagner.
“There are a lot of positives,” said Conrad. “But there are still things we need to work out. We have a lot of enthusiasm. We have a lot of guys who care. We’re still working to get better. That part of the response has been pretty good.
“I don’t think I’m a very good coach,” continued Conrad. “All good coaches say they love to practice and hate games. I love to practice and I love games. I think we’re looking forward to playing. We’ve really tried to focus on the process and have really tried to be in the moment. Everything we do is in the moment and not looking at outside forces.”
Palmyra will open the 2016-17 campaign on Friday, December 9th opposite Susquehannock.
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|Date & Time||Event Title||Venue|
|(A)||vs OPEN DATE|
|(H)||vs Mechanicsburg Area HS|
|(H)||vs Susquehanna Township HS|
|(A)||vs Milton Hershey School|
|(A)||vs Cedar Cliff HS|
|(A)||vs Bishop McDevitt HS|
|(H)||vs Cocalico Senior HS|
|(A)||vs Eastern Lebanon County HS||Ephrata Middle School|
|(A)||vs OPEN DATE|
|(A)||vs Red Land HS|
|(H)||vs Hershey HS|
|(A)||vs Lebanon Senior HS||Lebanon Valley College|
|(A)||vs Lower Dauphin HS|
|(A)||vs Mechanicsburg Area HS|
|(A)||vs Susquehanna Township HS|
|(H)||vs Cedar Cliff HS|
|(A)||vs New Oxford||Gettysburg High School|
|(H)||vs Bishop McDevitt HS|
|(H)||vs Red Land HS|
|(A)||vs Hershey HS|
|(H)||vs Lower Dauphin HS|
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|