Ebersole sank four free throws in the final 44 seconds, including two with 9.1 seconds left, to provide Palmyra with a 48-44 win over Trinity in the District Three Class AAA third-place game Friday night at Milton Hershey.
When the District 3-AAA girls' basketball playoffs started, the Cougars were awarded the No. 1 seed on the strength of their Mid-Penn Keystone Division championship and 21-2 record. A loss to No. 5 seed Lancaster Catholic this week in the semifinals kept them from playing Oley Valley for the district championship, but an attractive third-place matchup with No. 2 seed Trinity awaited them.
Pretty much the only thing at stake for the two Mid-Penn powers was a more favorable draw in the upcoming PIAA playoffs, since both had already qualified for states. The third-place team from District 3 will play the No.2 team from District 11, while the fourth-place team must face the No. 2 team from District 1.
Palmyra made sure it stays closer to home, thanks to 15 points from Ebersole, 13 from rapidly-improving Maddie Good and 11 from dependable Carly Richardson. Ebersole said the win was a confidence-builder for the Couagrs.
"I went to the line and said to myself, 'OK, let's get this thing over with,'" she said. "I was a little nervous with the first two, but when they went in, I felt good going back to the line for the final two.
Ebersole said the Cougars were very disappointed after losing to Lancaster Catholic, but a nifty win over Trinity, which defeated Palmyra two years ago in the district semifinals at the Giant Center, somewhat made up for it.
Against Lancaster Catholic, Ebersole's two impressive 3-point bombs in the final minute had the Cougars within two points with 30 seconds left, before the Crusaders prevailed. By Friday, they were ready to battle again.
Coach Ron Berman said he was very happy with the win and seeing his club move to 23-4 on the year, although Palmyra's opponent in states has yet to be determined. "We'll know more tomorrow who we play in states, but yes, I'm very happy with the win and the way we played." he said. "Trinity is a very good team. They give us matchup problems with their quickness at point guard and their size.
"A third-place game is kind of tough. That's why the NCAA doesn't play it anymore. But both teams battled hard. We defended well and rebounded well. When we had a two-point lead in the final seconds with Chelsea going to the line, I felt pretty confident."
Despite falling behind 4-1 in the opening minutes, Palmyra was in control throughout most of this one. Ebersole hit two first-quarter 3-pointers to put her team in front 9-8 on its way to an 11-9 first-quarter lead. Her third 3-pointer with 6:24 left in the half pushed the lead to 16-9 before a Good rebound stickback made it 18-9.
Trinity rallied to tie 18-18 on a 3-pointer by speedy sophomore point guard Briana Betz-White and two buckets by 6-foot-1 senior Anna Kuntz before Palmyra regained a 22-18 halftime lead after a nice Andrea Kronthal feed to Kait Carmo for two. Richardson had five third-quarter points and freshman Kristen Smoluk hit a 3-pointer as the Cougars built the lead back up to 35-28.
In the fourth quarter, Trinity battled back behind eight points by Betz-White and two Kuntz hoops to tie the game at 39 and 41. Then, with 1:08 left to play, Good grabbed a defensive rebound and dribbled the length of the court through defenders to make it 43-41. From there, a free throw by Richardson and four from Ebersole sealed the win.
Good had a break-out game against Lancaster Catholic with 17 points, then followed that with another sturdy game for the 5-foot-10 sophomore.
"Maddie had a tremendous game against Lancaster Catholic and is really coming on for us," said Berman. "She's a very good soccer player and played a lot of (club) soccer in the fall. So when the season started, it took a little while for her to get into basketball shape. But the last four or five weeks, she's been playing very well."
Berman used the opportunity to play different combinations in this game, including seniors Kira Brodzinski and Kronthal, junior Allison Langles and freshman point guard Katie Dembrowski.
"There wasn't a lot of pressure to win because neither of our seasons was going to end," he said. "In that regard, it was a nice game to play because I had a chance to use some different combinations to see how they'd do."
Berman gave everybody passing marks.