PAKMYRA – It’s been a hard scholastic basketball season, and for the Palmyra girls, it’s certainly been no exception. But the Cougars have performed their due diligences and made the best of it.
Now, some things are beginning to turn around and the Cougars are starting to dictate their terms.
On Saturday afternoon at Palmyra High School, the Cougars put forth one of their most complete efforts thus far, at a most opportune time, hammering their neighboring rivals from Hershey, 47-29. Palmyra began pulling away from the Trojans late in the first half, then finished the job in the third quarter.
Due to COVID-19 and inclement weather, the contest was Palmyra’s first in two weeks, but it pushed it to 7-5 overall and 4-4 in the Keystone Division of the Mid-Penn Conference. The result also moved Palmyra to 11th in the District Three power rankings, for an AAAAA classification that takes 16 teams for its postseason.
Last season – a year removed from winning the District Three Class AAAAA championship – the Cougars went a disappointing 8-14 and failed to qualify.
With the loss, Hershey fell to 6-7 on the season.
“I look at it this way, we’re right where we thought we’d be,” said Palmyra rookie head coach John Polly. “There are a couple of games we’d like to have back. But at the beginning of the season, we thought we were a middle-of-the-pack team that, if we got a bounce or two, could challenge. We’re competing. Last year, they didn’t compete.
“We’re winning a lot of those close games this year,” Polly added. “Expectations-wise, we want to make districts and we want to get a higher seed. We want to keep pushing the envelope. By winning today, we put ourselves in a good spot.”
With the momentum squarely in their corner inside the halftime locker room, Palmyra came out in the second half and used it to its full advantage.
Employing tight defense and crisp ball movement, the Cougars pieced together an 18-0 burst that gave them a 41-20 lead late in the third period. Katelyn Becker tallied seven of those Palmyra points, Zoe Smith contributed four points, Elen Cota nailed a three-pointer, K.K. Hamilton scored on a drive and Mallory Margot converted a couple of charity tosses .
“The third was the decisive quarter,” said Polly. “I think it was just the pressure we were putting on them (the Trojans). It was a battle of their ‘bigs’ against our guards, and we made sure our guards beat their ‘bigs’.
“We took care of the ball and we were patient on offense,” Polly added. “We made sure the ball went inside and came back out. We were still penetrating, and we didn’t just settle. We had a nice mixture with ‘threes’ and going inside. A lot of that became available because we had attacked their zone earlier.”
With the Trojans on the ropes, Palmyra put them away in the fourth quarter. A stick-back from Cota made it a 43-25 game 1:40 into the quarter, then two minutes later, a pair of Smith free throws gave the Cougars a 45-27 margin.
“It was a league game. It was a rivalry game,” said Polly. “And if you look at the power ratings, it was an important game for the district playoffs. I think this was a huge step in getting us where we want to go, which is the district three tournament.
“I think we finally played a four-quarter, complete game,” continued Polly. “We’ve played really well in spots, for like two or three quarters. And it was a team effort. We had contributions all across the board. They stepped up with Genieva (Martin) missing. The rotation was a little shorter today.”
Becker canned a total of five three-point field goals, four of which came in the first half, and finished with a game-high 21 points, while Smith collected 13 points. From beyond the arc, Palmyra outscored Hershey 21-9.
“It doesn’t hurt having Katelyn make five ‘threes’,” said Polly. “But the defensive job Zoe Smith did on Anna Coulter was key. She took away their best player. She made her work for everything she got. It was a fantastic floor game by Zoe.”
Palmyra had begun to create some distance between itself and Hershey late in the second period. A Becker three-pointer 3:16 into the period extended the Cougars’ lead to 16-11, and when Smith connected on a pull-up 41 ticks before the break, the Cougars had themselves a 23-17 halftime advantage.
“We had zoom meetings the whole time,” said Polly, of a recent two-week period that included only three practices. “We gave them 45-minute workouts, and asked them to do as good as they could outside. You just have to keep them engaged, keep them active. They’re going to follow our lead, adapt and move forward, adapt and move forward.”
Becker nailed a short jumper, then canned her initial three-pointer, to give Palmyra an early 7-2 advantage. But the opening quarter ended in a nine-all draw.
“This is the team that won districts two years ago,” said Polly. “There are a lot of players still remaining from that team. Last year, they didn’t qualify for districts. With six seniors, getting them back to districts is the ultimate goal. When you get there, you have a chance. Once you get to the party, you want to make some noise.”
|2021-02-03||H||vs||Mifflin County(6)||W||48-43 OT|
|4||Spring Grove Area||13-||2-||0||0.747051||0.905045||0.553948||15.25||134.00||1.60||107.90|