The voodoo doll on this night came in the form of the top-seeded Susquehanna Township Indians, and it was the Cougars who were sticking in the needles.
Palmyra continued its Cinderella-romp through the district's Class AAA tournament Monday night, knocking of the Indians 68-58 in the semifinals in front of 3,448 fans at Giant Center.
Ranked No. 12, the Cougars led for all but 30 seconds, idling the high-powered Indians behind deft free-throw shooting. Palmyra converted 27-of-31 free throws compared to Susquehanna's 6-for-15 night at the line. Senior Logan Stovall knocked down 11-of-12 to finish with a game-high 29 points.
"That's how you win big playoff games, by having guys just ice water on the free-throw line," said Cougars head coach Pete Conrad.
Next up, Palmyra (18-7) returns to Giant Center on Thursday at 8 p.m. for a title tilt against defending Class AAA champion Berks Catholic. The No. 3 Saints (25-3) eliminated No. 2 Donegal, 41-38, in the first half of Monday's doubleheader at Hershey.
"We know they have a great record, we know they have some tremendous wins, and some great post players," said Conrad. "Certainly it's going to be an unbelievable challenge, but these guys love challenges, and we're looking forward to it."
The loss is just Susquehanna's third of
"Susquehanna's great, everybody knows that. I think their record speaks for itself. But we had confidence that we could play with them," added Conrad. "That's probably half of the battle because I think so many teams are so intimidated by them before the ball is thrown up. I don't think we were in that situation."
Stovall led the charge for the orange and black, while snipers Adam Newhard and Trey Baker combined for 26 points. In addition, the Cougars received key minutes from Shaun Robinson, Chris Lynn, Alex Graybill, Ross Romanoski and Brad Mackey.
"(Depth) has kind of been our calling card. That's kind of what we hang our hat on," said Conrad. "We got so many guys that contribute that it's certainly a strength."
Newhard, coming off a 26-point performance in Friday's quarterfinal victory over Boiling Springs, opened the night with a banked-in jumper. The Tribe answered with a free throw and offensive putback by Salavas Pope to take its only lead, 3-2.
Newhard then followed with another bucket, and Stovall drilled a 3-pointer to regain control. The Cougars built a 15-10 advantage in the first quarter. They added two points to the lead in the second quarter to carry a 30-23 edge into halftime.
"The kids were great about it, as much as I was," Conrad said of the locker room talk. "Trey (Baker)
Baker started the third with two free throws and a spinning layup to push the lead to double digits. Stovall ended the quarter with five consecutive points, giving Palmyra its largest lead of the night at 48-33.
"It just seemed like Logan was knocking down free throw after free throw," said Conrad. "That's something he's worked hard at. There was a time he was an average free throw shooter; he's become a very good free throw shooter."
Head coach Vince Rogers' club finally started to make a run in the fourth - although it was too little, too late. The Indians rallied to make it a one possession game - 61-58 - with 1:56 left in regulation. From there, Stovall and Robinson iced it from the charity stripe.
"It was one of those days," smiled Stovall. "That's one of the things that Coach Conrad really focuses on. He says, 'Play good defense, helpside and free throws.'"
Joe Marshall scored a team-high 14 points for Susquehanna, while Pope joined him in double figures with nine.
"It feels good to get this win. It's been quite a few years since Palmyra's been in a championship game at districts," added Stovall. "We've all been playing together since sixth grade, I think. We never dreamed of this, we thought this was far out of reach."