For the second straight season, the Cougars boys' basketball team pulled off a first-round stunner in the District Three Class AAA championship tournament. Palmyra ended No. 4 Gettysburg's season Tuesday night with a 66-61 road victory on the Warriors' home court.
"I think some of it had to do with our experience," said Palmyra coach Pete Conrad. "We're really fortunate to have all those seniors and guys that have played in those situations, guys that aren't intimidated."
Unheralded senior Brad Mackey dropped a career-high 16 points off the bench, and the visitors splashed 11 long balls to overcome an early hole. Trey Baker (team-high 17 points) and Adam Newhard (14) joined Mackey in double digits for the victors.
"I'm just happy we won the game," said Mackey, a 6-foot-2 forward. "We talked (prior to the tip), 'We're not ready to go home. We're a 12-seed, we're underrated, and we think they might take us lightly.' But give (Gettysburg) credit, they played their butts off.
Palmyra's victory sets up a second-round showdown Friday at 7:30 p.m. against Boiling Springs at Carlisle Area High School. The Bubblers, seeded 13th, eliminated Steel-High with a 69-64 upset Tuesday night in Steelton. The top seven teams in the AAA bracket advance to the PIAA State Tournament.
"That's been one of our goals. Our team last year - in such heartbreaking fashion - fell short of states," Conrad said. "These guys would love to do that, in part for those guys who fell short.
A year ago, the Cougars upset third-seeded Donegal 50-49 in the first round before losing back-to-back overtime games (York Suburban, Northeastern) to finish one win shy of a state invitation.
Palmyra (16-8) appeared to be headed for an early exit in 2012-13 after Gettysburg (16-8) jumped ahead by nine in the second quarter. Colin Bortner cashed in from outside to give the Warriors a 23-14 advantage, which would equal the largest lead of the night for either side.
"We were definitely concerned," said Conrad. "But at the same time, we've been in a ton of situations like that because of our league (Mid-Penn Keystone). You don't feel overwhelmed by it. ... And it helps when you have a bunch of guys that can shoot the ball. That helps bring you back quicker."
Mackey led the Cougars' second-quarter comeback with eight points in the stanza, while reserves Alex Graybill and Ross Romanoski provided a spark with defense and rebounding.
"I just happened to be open tonight and the guys found me," Mackey said. "I'm not usually the scorer type, so they weren't really guarding me. That's not my role. My role is to rebound and give my shooters the ball. ... I usually get higher rebounds than points."
Baker continued the orange-and-black's push when he dropped a bomb with 2:38 to go before halftime to make it 25-25.
"For awhile there, both coaches just had their seatbelts on trying to catch their breath as the kids made big play after big play on both ends," Conrad said. "We had a few kids just really will a few big plays into existence."
Neither club gained control in a back-and-forth third quarter, although Chris Lynn scored consecutive baskets to help Palmyra to a 45-42 edge after 24 minutes.
The Cougars canned four 3-pointers in the final quarter, including three by Baker. Still, the Warriors never gave in behind Cody Kiefer (game-high 21 points) and Thomas (13). Head coach Jeff Bair's club fought back for a 57-56 lead with 2:32 remaining.
From there, Newhard knocked down his third 3-pointer, and Logan Stovall converted an and-1 to make it 62-57. Mackey tacked another and-1 free throw with 36.1 ticks left to seal the deal.
"We were very fortunate we got a big game out of Mackey off the bench. Really, just a tremendous job by him. He really saved our bacon there," Conrad said. "He's really come on strong in the second half. For a guy who was hurt last year, and probably a little behind on varsity experience, you can really see him growing exponentially, and he has such a great knowledge of the game."
PALMYRA 66, GETTYSBURG 61
¦Robinson 1 0-0 3, Stovall 2 2-3 6, C. Lynn 3 0-0 7, Baker 6 0-0 17, A. Graybill 0 2-2 2, Newhard 5 0-1 14, Romanoski 0 0-1 1, Mackey 6 4-5 16. Totals 23 9-12 66.
¦Kroll 3 0-0 6, Bortner 3 0-0 9, Colbert 1 0-0 2, Kiefer 9 1-2 21, Thomas 5 3-6 13, T. Lampe 5 0-0 10, Je. Nye 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 4-8 61.
Palmyra 14 16 15 21 - 66
Gettysburg 18 13 11 19 - 61
3-point goals - Palmyra 11 (Baker 5, Newhard 4, Robinson, Lynn); Gettysburg 5 (Bortner 3, Kiefer 2).
Total Fouls - Palmyra 8; Gettysburg 1
4. Fouled Out - None.