BY JEFF FALK
MOUNT JOY – Chris Lynn fully understands his role on the Palmyra boys’ basketball team. But he has the utmost confidence in his individual abilities.
Apparently, Lynn also possesses the wisdom to not confuse those two sometimes conflicting ideals.
In an opening round game of the District Three Class AAA postseason on Tuesday night, Lynn, a reserve guard, hit a game-winning runner with two seconds remaining that lifted the Cougars to a thrilling 50-49 victory at Donegal. The ball found its way into Lynn’s hand after the double-screen play called for sharpshooter Adam Newhard broke down.
With time running down, Lynn had the presence and confidence to take it right to the basket. He and his Palmyra teammates were rewarded with a Friday 5 p.m. trip to Hershey’s Giant Center.
Thats’ when and where the 14th-seeded and 14-10 Cougars will play sixth-seeded and 20-4 York Suburban, a 58-55 winner over West York. The win also assured Palmyra at least three more games this season.
The defeat ended third-seeded Donegal’s season at 20-4.
“He (Lynn) was in to hit a three,” explained Palmyra head coach Pete Conrad. “We have a lot of confidence in him. Offensively, he’s a threat. That little floater he made, that’s a signature shot for him.
“When I see the ball go to him I’m hoping he’s got the confidence to make a play,” Conrad added. “I’m hoping he doesn’t make a pass because nine times out of ten if you make a pass in that situation you don’t get off a shot. With that much time left, somebody’s got to take a shot.”
“I just wanted to get to Giant Center,” said Lynn. “That was definitely the biggest shot I ever hit. No, I never hit a game-winner before.”
In a game of big plays and back-and-forth action, Lynn, who saw limited playing time, was the unlikeliest of heroes. His only other basket of the game was a putback near the end of the first quarter.
“My role is to play tough defense and help out,” said Lynn. “I’m a complimentary player. Hit some threes.”
“We drew something else up,” said Conrad, “and it broke down. Chris just did a great job of continuing the play, keeping the play alive. It was going to be a double-screen for Newhard.”
It was a Newhard three-pointer with 47 seconds left that had cut Palmyra’s
four-point deficit to 49-48. Then after Donegal missed the front end of a one-and-one with 14 ticks left, the Cougars – without the benefit of a timeout – set up the wild scramble that produced Lynn’s game-winner.
On three separate ocassions in the fourth quarter, Palmyra enjoyed a three-point cushion. A Brandon Petrouskie charity toss made it 38-35, an offensive rebound from Dan Rusling gave Palmyra a 40-37 edge and a trey from Colby Conway with 5:17 to go put the Cougars ahead 43-40.
“Our schedule gets us ready to play a lot of ways,” said Conrad. “They’re (the Indians) very, very good. But we thought we could compete with them. We were able to make some plays down the stretch.
“We were confident,” continued Conrad. “But we did think it was a victory. We knew we were coming into a tough environment, this little gym where they don’t pay the electric bill.”
Palmyra’s biggest advantage of the night came at 37-32, on a Newhard trifecta with 52 seconds left in the third period. It accentuated a 7-0 run that also included a spin move from Newhard and a lay-up by Logan Stovall.
“We’ve had guys do a great job of that (embracing their roles),” said Conrad. “Somtimes they have come organically and sometimes we’ve had to dictate them. They learned their roles early, but they didn’t know them from the start.
“It’s an important win,” added Conrad. “But really I don’t know if I want to put it in context of the program. There’s a lot of juniors and seniors in there (the locker room).”
“Everyone has their roles,” said Lynn. “They know what to do. Some people are shooters. Some people are distributors. Others bang inside.”
Palmyra trailed 13-9 after eight minutes of action and 23-17 late in the second period. But on the strength of back-to-back buckets by Petrouskie, the Cougars ended the half on a high note.
Then when Rusling converted a drive down the lane early in the third quarter, Palmyra had a 25-23 lead, its first since 7-6.
“They’re (the Indians) so good at those little things,” said Conrad. “They’re used to getting 75 percent of the loose balls. I don’t know if we got all of them, but we competed.
“I think there’s a difference between the Keystone (Division of the Mid-Penn Conference) and L-L (Lancaster-Lebanon) Three,” continued Conrad. “I thought we were a little flat-footed early on. But our guys adjusted in the second half.”
“It’s great for our team,” said Petrouskie. “We just want to keep it going.”
Newhard’s 12 points led a list of seven Palmyra scorers. But the Cougars were just two-of-six from the charity stripe.
“This season’s been great,” concluded Lynn. “We put our work in in the off-season. We knew we had a good group of guys coming into this.”