Palmyra s Logan Stovall, whose offensive rebound and basket at the buzzer lifted the Cougars to victory Saturday night, tries to get around the Falcons
Palmyra s Logan Stovall, whose offensive rebound and basket at the buzzer lifted the Cougars to victory Saturday night, tries to get around the Falcons Jack Miller. (LEBANON DAILY NEWS JEREMY LONG)
PALMYRA - Hey, what's Senior Night without a little emotion and drama?

For theirs, the nine 12th-grade members of the Palmyra boys' basketball team got all they could have ever hoped for and more than they ever would have wanted. All at the same time.

The Cougars were on the brink of a Senior Night to remember for all of the wrong reasons after a 54-40 early-fourth-quarter lead turned into a tie game in the final minute of Saturday night's Mid-Penn Keystone Division scrap with backyard rival Lower Dauphin.

But in the end, Palmyra was saved from that fate by an impossibly magical play, senior forward Logan Stovall's mid-air putback/mini-desperation heave just before the buzzer that gave the Cougars an unforgettable 56-54 triumph.

Yeah, nobody that was in attendance could really believe it, either. But it happened. Basketball gods be damned.

"Brad Mackey was saying the basketball gods must have been with us. I said, 'Why would they have been with us after that fourth quarter?'" said Palmyra coach Pete Conrad, with a sheepish smile. "Maybe it wasn't basketball gods, and Logan just made a pretty big, winning play. That's certainly a memory. We were talking about how you want Senior Night to be a great memory. He'll certainly have one after that."

The Cougars were certainly well on their way to making their Senior Night a thoroughly positive one after turning leads of 16-12 after the first quarter and 31-26 at the half into a commanding 54-40 advantage after Adam Newhard dropped in a fastbreak layup with 6:03 left.

But Palmyra (14-5, 9-4 Keystone) wouldn't score again until Stovall corralled a ping-ponging loose ball just inside the top of the key with time winding down, flipping it at the basket in the same motion and catching nothing but net as both teams and sets of fans looked on incredulously.

"There was a couple seconds left, and I was just standing at the top of the key," Stovall said of the final, crazy moments, which began with point guard Shaun Robinson attempting a twisting, driving layup in traffic. "I was like, 'I may as well go rebound.' I just happened to be in the right place and grabbed it. I knew I didn't have much time."

The possession began when Newhard knocked away the ball away from an LD player driving along the baseline with about 30 seconds left. The ball eventually ended up in Robinson's hands, and Conrad elected not to use a timeout and let his point guard create. Little did he or anyone else know what that would ultimately be.

"We were in a simple spread set and Shaun went to the rim," said Conrad. "That's a play where you give him the freedom to get a shot up or make a pass, in that case he got a shot up and obviously it was a wild sequence. Logan was in the right place at the right time.

The Cougars  Brad Mackey goes to the floor to keep control of the basketball as the Falcons  Tommy Bowen reaches in.
The Cougars Brad Mackey goes to the floor to keep control of the basketball as the Falcons Tommy Bowen reaches in. (LEBANON DAILY NEWS JEREMY LONG)
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Stovall's heroics, which gave him a team-high 16 points to go with big efforts from fellow seniors Trey Baker (12) and Mackey (10), also produced an unfortunately cruel ending for the Falcons, who battled magnificently in the final period. But in the end, the Falcons couldn't overcome 14-for-24 foul shooting and a ton of other mistakes in the first three quarters.

"It didn't come down to one play," said a dejected LD coach Mark Hofsass. "It's all the things that lead up to that, all the possessions were important. We made some great things happen, we also let things get away from us, too. At both ends of the floor."

"The comeback was great. I've got tough kids, they don't quit. They'll battle and we got back in the game. Over the course of the game we just made too many mistakes."

Luke Rutledge (game-high 18 points) and Kaylor Kulina led the fourth-quarter charge for LD (11-8, 7-7), with Kulina coming up with the biggest bucket. That was a left-wing 3-pointer with a minute to go that completed a 14-0 run and knotted the score at 54.

"I was worried there for a little while," Stovall admitted. "Once he (Kulina) hit that '3', I'll admit it, my head dropped."

"A ton of credit to Lower Dauphin," Conrad said. "Their guys, when they could have packed it in, fought like heck. They obviously became the aggressor and were energized by that. Their guys made a ton of huge shots to get that point. We were fortunate to escape."