Palmyra s Gabi Gundermann, right, was one of the keys to a superb Cougar defensive performance in Wednesday s 44-29 win against Gettysburg in a District
Palmyra s Gabi Gundermann, right, was one of the keys to a superb Cougar defensive performance in Wednesday s 44-29 win against Gettysburg in a District Three Class AAA semifinal matchup at the Giant Center. Here, Gundermann tightly guards the Warriors leading scorer, Cami Boehner, on a drive to the hoop. (LEBANON DAILY NEWS JEREMY LONG)
HERSHEY - There's only so many emotional highs that can be reached in a given season, only so many times that a basketball team - even one as good as the Palmyra girls - can operate at the absolute peak of its powers.

So what? The Cougars just win anyway, whether they're at their best or not.

For the second time in as many games, unbeaten Palmyra looked extremely, well, beatable, this time during Wednesday afternoon's District Three Class AAA semifinal clash with Gettysburg at the Giant Center.

And for the second time in as many games, the Cougars simply refused to let it happen, overcoming game-long ice-cold shooting and a feisty G-burg squad to post a 44-29 victory and earn another trip back to the big stage in Chocolatetown.

Waiting for Palmyra in Saturday's 11:15 a.m. title tilt at Giant Center will be sixth-seeded York County rep Susquehannock, which nipped West Work, 43-42, in Wednesday's other semifinal battle.

It hasn't been as easy as one might think for the Cougars, now 27-0, to stay unbeaten this long. Especially lately.

But the closer the law of averages gets to catching up with Palmyra, the more quickly it seems to sidestep and sprint away.


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"This year has obviously been a very magical ride for us, there's no doubt about it," Palmyra head coach Ron Berman said. "But these last (few games)... You know you're getting everybody's best shot for loads of reasons, and emotionally it's just hard to stay at a high level of focus."

But not impossible.

Despite dreadful 9-for-59 shooting and the significant chore of defending G-burg's dynamic guard tandem of Cami Boehner and Ellen Bair, Palmyra trailed for all of one minute of game time en route to punching its ticket back to Hershey.

"All the players come out to play hard," said senior guard Gabi Gundermann of the Cougars' refuse-to-lose mentality. "We have a lot of competitive girls, we have girls who don't like to lose ever. In practice or in games. We have a lot of pride in ourselves, our team and our school."

It was Palmyra's pride in the less-than-glamorous aspects of the game - defense and rebounding - that pulled it through Wednesday, as well as a key 14-point effort from steady senior guard Kait Carmo.

Gundermann's work on Boehner, and the tag-team efforts of Katie Dembrowski, Katy McClellan and Maria Tukis on Bair, highlighted a defensive effort that rendered the offensive woes irrelevant.

Palmyra s Kait Carmo goes up for two of her team-high 14 points in the Cougars  44-29 win against Gettysburg in the District Three Class AAA semifinals at
Palmyra s Kait Carmo goes up for two of her team-high 14 points in the Cougars 44-29 win against Gettysburg in the District Three Class AAA semifinals at Giant Center. (LEBANON DAILY NEWS JEREMY LONG )

Meanwhile, Carly Richardson overcame a gimpy ankle that forced her to sit out the quarterfinal win against Eastern York to lead a ferocious rebounding effort that saw Palmyra claim a whopping 23 offensive boards and wipe the defensive glass clean more often than not.

"You get a lot of energy when you make baskets," Berman said. "Obviously it's a lot tougher to play defense when you don't. But I think the kids believe in each other and they know that we are good shooters.

"Between Gabi Gundermann, Katie Dembrowski, Katy McClellan and a little bit of Maria Tukis, we just did a great job on their two guards. And it was a real key to have Carly with the rebounding and giving us that inside strength."

Boehner ended up with 14 points with the help of four 3-pointers, and Bair battled her way to eight, but by game's end both appeared to be spent.

"We knew we had to play really good defense, so we started with the two players that have most of their points," Gundermann said of Boehner and Bair. "We were trying to make them make layups against help defense instead of just (giving up) open 3s."

Early on, though, it was a bit of a different story. With Palmyra's shooting woes aiding the cause, Gettysburg took a 17-16 lead on a Boehner "3" with 1:15 left in the first half.

A Tukis free throw with 33 ticks left before intermission knotted the score at 17 at the break, but Gettysburg was still right there, down 28-26 after an Alexis Rothermel putback with 6:37 to go.

But from there Carmo and Gundermann, Palmyra's two senior starters, combined on their own personal 8-0 run to essentially put the game away.

Carmo began it with an old-school three-point play off an offensive rebound and ended it with a daring drive through traffic and a 36-26 lead with 3:15 left. In between, defensive specialist Gundermann stuck a much-needed "3" that seemed to prompt a collective sigh of relief from the Palmyra side.

"We're not the best athletically," Gundermann said of herself and Carmo. "We're not like Maria or Kristen (Smoluk) or anything, but we work really hard and we have a lot of passion about the game. So we try to step up when we can."

So back to the Giant Center it is for the Cougars, and another chance to leave the law of averages grabbing at air.

"Our last six games, they've just been tough games," Berman said. "I was a little worried about the emotional part. It's hard, it takes a lot out of you. It takes a lot out of a 65-year-old, I know that. But they seem to bounce back."

Notes: Palmyra will be going after its first district title in girls' basketball on Saturday... The Cougars last appeared in the district finals in 2006, losing to Lancaster Catholic. Palmyra also fell to Catholic in the 2005 title game... Gettysburg fell to 20-6 and will meet West York in the third-place game on Friday.