BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – There are literally millions of thoughts, aspirations and notions floating around out there. The trick is putting those ideas into action.
The Palmyra boys’ basketball team knows where it’s going – and now how to get there.
On Friday night, the Cougar men of action dismantled Ephrata 65-43 in a mid-season non-league clash. A switch to a seldom-used 3-2 zone defense provided Palmyra with some breathing room, and the Cougars finished the job with some unrelenting depth.
The triumph made Palmyra, the ninth ranked Class AAA club in District Three, 10-5 overall. It wasn’t all that long ago that Palmyra was scuffling for any win it could get in a season.
Ephrata stumbled to 2-13 on the year.
“We always set goals at the beginning of the season, but this year we tried to be a little different,” said Palmyra head coach Pete Conrad. “Before, we had a list of goals, but we didn’t have ways to make it happen. We didn’t have the process pieces. Having those has helped us get to our goals. We thought we could be 10-5.
“Goals always evolve,” Conrad continued. “We want to set our goals high. But I don’t think they are unrealistic. There’s a lot of good teams in the district, and we feel we fit in with them.”
After tallying the game’s first five points, Palmyra grabbed a 16-8 lead on a three-point play from Logan Stovall late in the opening stanza. But the subtle switch to a zone defense early in the second quarter ignited the Cougars and sent them on a 14-0 run that gave them a 30-11 advantage.
During that outburst, Colby Conway collected six consecutive Cougar points, Stovall added four and Shaun Robinson nailed a triple.
“That’s something we’ve been dabbling with,” said Conrad of the 3-2 zone, “and I thought we could mix it in here. But Coach (Ephrata’s Jason) Coletti’s adjustments at halftime were very, very good. We’ve mixed it in some and played it more than we did in the past. It’s something we want to have in our bag of tricks.
“We think we have some length there,” added Conrad. “That’s advantageous if we want to play a little zone. But it’s not something we want to hang our hats on. We’re a man-to-man team.”
The Mounts began the second half with 12 unanswered points to pull within four of the Cougars’ lead. Palmyra went without a score for a stretch of 4:06, until Conway connected on a jumper.
With eight different players contributing, Palmyra proceeded to out score the Mounts 17-5 over the remainder of the the third stanza to open a 47-31 advantage. That lead reached 60-34 on a pair of charity tosses from Trey Baker three minutes into the fourth quarter.
“In spurts, we were very, very good,” said Conrad. “We’re striving for a level of consistency we haven’t reached yet.
“A lot of it is experience,” Conrad added. “They (the Mounts) may be a year or so behind us. They’re developing. We have a lot of guys who have played two years of varsity basketball. That’s important.”
Stovall, a long junior guard, paced Palmyra with 17 points on a variety of moves around the hole, while Conway counted to ten.
“When he’s aggressive, he’s such a good player,” said Conrad of Stovall. “He’s 6-4 and so good off the dribble. And he’s gaining confidence with his jump shot. He’s a difficult match-up. You have to have a pretty mobile forward to go out and guard him on the perimeter. His versatility as a scorer is what makes him so dangerous.
“But one real positive for me tonight was Shaun Robinson’s play,” Conrad continued. “If he continues to play like that, we’re going to continue to get better as a team.”
When everything was said and done, all 15 players on the Cougar roster saw action, and 11 of those found their way into the scorebook.
“It’s funny, we think it’s (depth) one of our real strengths,” said Conrad. “We think we can go ten or twelve deep. We think it’s an advantage in games and in practices. There have been games like this where we’ve gone deep into our bench. And that spread-out scoring is something we’ve done a lot this year.
“Oh yeah, we’re excited about our record,” Conrad concluded, “especially if you look at who we’ve played. But we don’t ever want to take it for granted.”