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 BY JEFF FALK

 POTTSVILLE – Do you know how the Palmyra girls have played their best basketball at the right time?

 Do you know how the Cougars have come together as a unit?

 Do you know how they’ve redefined themselves by thoroughly embracing their roles?

 Well, last night, the Cougars’ season became a little more special, a little more cohesive, a little more complete.

 On Wednesday night at Pottsville’s Martz Hall, Palmyra reached the Elite Eight of the PIAA Class AAAAA playoff tournament with a convincing 42-24 triumph over Wyoming Valley West, in the second round of the state postseason. Following a somewhat lackluster start, the Cougars got stronger as the contest wore on and eventually pulled away from the Spartans.

 It was the tenth straight victory – six of which have come in the playoffs – on Palmyra’s magical late-season ride. Now 18-10 overall, the District Three champion Cougars will see their next action in Saturday’s state quarterfinals, at a site and time, and against an opponent to be determined.

 Wyoming Valley West, the runner-up out of District Two, ended its year at 17-11.

 “I am enjoying this journey,” said Palmyra head coach Mary Manlove. “Every moment we’re trying to make a memory. I don’t think the kids realize it yet, but this is a miracle season. To be one of eight (Class AAAAA) teams standing and a district champion, it’s going to be etched in Palmyra history forever.

 “Chemistry and cohesion-wise, this is probably one of the best teams I’ve ever coached,” continued Manlove. “Gelling, meshing and peaking at the right time has been very rewarding. The relationships complement each other, and no one takes anything personally. It takes a lot of trust and faith in each other. And the parents are extremely supportive of the coaches.”

 It took the Cougars a bit of time to find their stride, but once they did they didn’t look back.

 Despite holding Wyoming Valley West without a point over the initial 3:37 of the contest, Palmyra only enjoyed a 3-0 lead, courtesy of a free throw from Zoe Smith. The Spartans led by a deuce at the end of the first quarter, and 9-5 early in the second.

 “We played very well. Very, very well,” said Manlove. “We didn’t have a whole lot of time to prepare. To hold a team like that to 24 points, that’s a defensive accomplishment. A huge credit goes to Katelyn Becker and Amelia Baldo for shutting down their top scorers, and the rest of the team for defending the paint. It was an all-out defensive gem.

 “It’s another round,” Manlove continued. “I had a good feeling about tonight. The kids had a good feeling about tonight. We’re just enjoying this experience so much. There is no pressure. There is no form of expectations.”

 It was a driving lay-in from Baldo three minutes into the second period which sent the Cougars off and wheeling. It served as the first points of a 12-0 Palmyra run that culminated with a Baldo three-pointer, and a 17-9 Cougar halftime lead.

 Included in the spurt were a a Becker trey, a Sara Boyer jumper and an Olivia Richardson basket.

 “The first quarter was dead-even,” said Manlove. “We got looks, but the shots just didn’t fall. In the second quarter, we blew it open. I thought we lost the third quarter. But in the fourth quarter, we buckled down. When they (the Spartans) pressed, it got them out of position. 

 “The Elite Eight is such a huge accomplishment,” added Manlove. “For any group, but especially for this group. I wouldn’t trade it for a day. I’ll take all those ten losses.”

  Senior leaders Richardson and Baldo showed the way with 15 and 12 points, respectively. Palmyra outscored Wyoming Valley West 12-3 from ‘distance’, and converted eight of its 13 free throw attempts.

 “It was one of our best defensive games as a team,” said Manlove. “The rebounding was incredible. The free throw shooting was good. This team is just focused on the few keys we give them.”

 With two Richardson buckets, the Cougars expanded their halftime margin to 21-11 early in the second half. But the Spartans outscored Palmyra 8-3 over the final six minutes of the third period to close to within 24-19 of the lead.

 “When those two kids were out, we were keeping the ship going,” said Manlove of mid-season injuries to Baldo and Becker. “We were right there without those integral parts. We were doing the best we could. We kept asking ourselves, ‘How can we get better? How can we be a little more refined?'”

 Palmyra really flexed its muscles with an overwhelming 13-0 run to begin the final period. It turned a five-point margin into a 37-19 bulge.

 Richardson led the charge with seven points, while Becker contributed three points and Smith drained a three-pointer.

 “This is a very different team,” said Manlove. “They never placed expectations on themselves at the beginning of the season. It’s an opportunity every time we step on the court. They’re (her players) enjoying the journey. They’re enjoying each other. They have such coach-able attitudes. At this point, they’re fearless.”

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 2018-19 Palmyra Girls’ Basketball Results

Date Opponents Outcomes
12/75:00p (W) 52 – 29
12/86:45p (W) 43 – 25
12/117:30p
Location: Palmyra High School
(W) 44 – 37
12/147:30p
Location: Palmyra High School
(L) 47 – 44
12/177:30p
Location: Palmyra High School
(W) 46 – 24
12/217:30p
Location: Hershey High School
(L) 34 – 26
12/227:30p
Location: Palmyra High School
(W) 43 – 26
12/27TBA (L) 45 – 36
12/28TBA (W) 47 – 29
1/512:30a
Location: Palmyra High School
(L) 45 – 43
1/8TBA (W) 40 – 37
1/11TBA (L) 45 – 30
1/157:30p
Location: Cedar Cliff High School
(L) 37 – 30
1/187:30p
Location: Bishop McDevitt High School
(L) 52 – 34
1/216:00p
Location: Wilson High School
(L) 43 – 40
1/217:30p
Game Details: WILSON HIGH SCHOOL, Gym
(L) 43 – 40
1/227:30p
Location: Red Land High School
(W) 31 – 26
1/257:30p
Location: Palmyra High School
(L) 40 – 39
2/1TBA (L) 46 – 33
2/2TBA (W) 40 – 19
2/3TBA
Location: Susquehannock High School
 
2/8TBA (W) 46 – 15
2/19TBA (W) 41 – 35
2/227:00p
Location: Spring Grove High School
(W) 43 – 41
2/26TBA (W) 54 – 51
3/1TBA (W) 31 – 23
3/93:00p
Game Details: Milton Hershey HS, Hershey
(W) 46 – 38
3/136:30p
Game Details: Martz Hall, Pottsville
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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