Palmyra s Trey Baker sets up for a long ball during Wednesday night s game against rival Hershey. The Trojans outscored the Cougars 33-18 in the second
Palmyra s Trey Baker sets up for a long ball during Wednesday night s game against rival Hershey. The Trojans outscored the Cougars 33-18 in the second half to claim a 53-47 victory on the road. (LEBANON DAILY NEWS ASHLEY WALTER)
PALMYRA - If the Palmyra boys' basketball team reached a peak last Friday, the Cougars encountered a valley Wednesday night against their arch-rival.

Leading by double-digits in the second half, Palmyra collapsed down the stretch, falling to Hershey 53-47 in a Mid-Penn Keystone Division clash at home.

The Trojans outscored the Cougars 43-21 over the final 19:00, overcoming a 16-point deficit to pull off the comeback. Hershey's Jack Gunkel canned a catch-and-release 3-pointer to break a 43-43 draw with 4:09 remaining in the fourth. The hosts never recovered.

"I didn't think we did a great job of attacking (in the second half)," said Palmyra coach Pete Conrad. "They really got energized, and I thought we gave some opportunities for that to happen."

Gunkel ended with a game-high 17 for the Trojans. John Miller and Tim Gette both chipped in with nine for former Lebanon and current Hershey head coach Paul Blackburn's club. Trey Baker and Logan Stovall both led the way for Palmyra with 11.

"Really it started at the end of the second quarter when they were able to cut into (the lead)," added Conrad. "They had a lot of confidence and momentum going into the locker room, and that was just a lack of focus and a lack of taking care of the basketball."

Palmyra, which knocked off unbeaten Susquehanna 65-57 last Friday, rumbled out of the gates to take a 10-2 lead and force Blackburn to burn a timeout at 3:06 of the first quarter. Adam Newhard opened the night with a bucket in the paint before splashing a long ball for a 7-2 edge.


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Newhard, the Cougars' top gun averaging 17 points per game, did not score again.

"Miller did a great job on Adam. Those guys, I'm sure, have played against each other all over the place," said Conrad. "Maybe we didn't do a good job of getting the ball inside where he could post him up. He's bigger than Johnny."

Hershey, meanwhile, could not buy a bucket in the early going. The Trojans missed 14-of-16 shots in the first eight minutes, including firing 0-for-6 from outside. Palmyra carried an 18-4 advantage after one quarter.

"Especially when it's that early, you got to keep playing. You haven't decided anything in the first quarter," Conrad said. "We may have thought it was going to be easy; I knew Hershey was playing great. Apparently I didn't do a good job of communicating that to the kids."

In the second, Palmyra extended its lead to 26-10 at 2:44 following a free throw by Ross Romanoski. Snipers Baker and Chris Lynn finished the first half with six points each to pace the Cougars. Hershey trailed 29-19 at the break.

The third quarter featured the Trojans slowly whittling away at the lead, chopping it down to 40-34 to start the fourth.

The Cougars’ Logan Stovall drives past Hershey defender T.C. Liptack on Wednesday night.
The Cougars' Logan Stovall drives past Hershey defender T.C. Liptack on Wednesday night. (LEBANON DAILY NEWS ASHLEY WALTER)
From there, big man Chase Watkins cleaned up his own rebound and Gette drained a runner to make it a one-possession game.

Hershey's first lead of the night came with 5:17 left after a technical foul on Brad Mackey. The visitors made 9-of-13 from the charity stripe in the fourth, while Palmyra's offense stalled in the clutch, producing just seven points in the quarter.

Palmyra shot 38 percent from the field (17-of-44) and made 6-of-18 from beyond the arch. Hershey converted at a 32-percent clip overall (16-of-50) and connected on 3-of-18 from outside.

"I don't know if it's a low end, because to me, Hershey is such a good team," Conrad said. "I do think it's a case of being a little too happy with ourselves.

"We were dissatisfied when we were 3-3, and we worked really hard to change that. Then all of a sudden, you're 9-3 and pretty happy with yourself. It's a pretty good lesson there because now we're 9-5 (overall)."

The loss also leaves the Cougars at 4-4 in the Keystone. Hershey improves to 6-6 and 4-4.

"I think at times we've played great, but at other times we have maybe not been as good as we need to be," said Conrad.