BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – Share and help.
Share the basketball and help your fellow defender.
Good things happen to those who put others ahead of themselves. And good things continue to happen to the altruistic Palmyra girls’ basketball team.
On Friday night, the Cougars shared the ball and helped each other on defense, and that keyed their 70-52 victory over Susquehanna Township. Palmyra jumped on the Indians early, never trailed and won going away.
The win lifted Palmyra, currently the top-ranked Class AAA club in District Three, to 14-2 overall and 8-1 in the Keystone Division of the Mid-Penn Conference. It also kept the defending Keystone champs tied with Lower Dauphin in the loss column, atop the division standing.
Susquehanna Township, which fell to Palmyra 49-39 earlier in the year, dropped to 13-4 on the year and 6-3 in the division.
“We try to teach team,” said Palmyra head coach Ron Berman. “We talk about playing hard, playing smart, playing together and having fun. Help is playing together. You rebound together. You defend together. You do things to try to help your teammates.
“I don’t want to blow our own horn, but there’s a reason we’ve had 12 winning seasons in-a-row,” Berman added. “We haven’t had one Division One player and everyone out there plays at least two sports. We’re not a basketball school.”
Two separate first-half runs put Palmyra in firm control of the outcome.
The first was a 13-0 burst midway through the opening stanza that turned a 7-4 edge into a 20-4 advantage early in the second. Sophomore forward Carly Richardson started it with a three-pointer and had five points in the outburst, and Chelsea Ebersole and Callie Good ended it with a trey and a free throw, respectively.
The second was a 12-0 run and it turned a 20-11 lead into a 32-11 bulge. Kaitlyn Carmo and Ebersole notched five points a piece in the uprising.
“The same thing happened up there for us,” said Berman of a 12-0 Cougar start to their previous meeting with the Indians. “From that point on, you can substitute because you want to substitute. You can control the game. A lead in a game like this is really big. They (the Indians) have to get away from being down double-digits. They were forced to come from behind.
“For some players, maybe they can lose their focus,” continued Berman. “They forget how they got to this point. The third quarter to me was our worst quarter, but we executed very well. We started trading baskets with them.”
The contributions that the Cougars received on this evening went well beyond the four starters who scored in double figures. Ebersole paced Palmyra with 15 points, Richardson popped for a dozen points, Maddie Good registered 11 and C. Good recorded ten.
“Tonight we were about as good as we can be,” said Berman. “We still have limits we can’t control. We don’t have a creative point guard. But we have two or three twos (off-guards), and where we’re getting better is executing our offense. And we only have one senior in our top eight.
“We’ve played 16 games and we’ve only had our eight top players together three times,” Berman continued. “Tonight was one of them. And not only haven’t we had everyone together for games, we haven’t had everyone there for practice.”
Early in the final quarter, Palmyra’s lead reached 56-35 on Ebersole’s third three-pointer.
“Can we enjoy it?” said Berman. “I’m going to sleep very good tonight. We’re already prepared for Blue Mountain (Saturday afternoon). Would a loss at Blue Mountain take away from the season? It would a little bit. Blue Mountain is going to be in the state tournament. The only thing I’d be disappointed with is if we didn’t compete.
“I do think we’re enjoying it (the success),” Berman added. “I think we do keep it in perspective. One of my favorite Joe Paterno quotes is:’You’re never as good as you think you are after a win, and you’re never as bad as you think you are after a loss.”
Looming on the Cougars’ horizon is a Friday night date with Lower Dauphin, the only team to beat them over the last 15 games.
“The bottom line is we continue to control our own destiny,” said Berman. “This win can allow us to play Lower Dauphin with only one loss (in the division). Lower Dauphin is the team to beat. To me, this (the win) kind of eliminated one of the competitors (Susquehanna Township). Including tonight, in our next ten games, six of the teams we will play are district-bound. Tonight we lifted our level of play.”