Palmyra s Gabi Gundermann, left, and Kaitlyn Carmo sandwich East Pennsboro s Kailee Yoder en route to a jump ball Wednesday night in Palmyra. The Cougars
Palmyra s Gabi Gundermann, left, and Kaitlyn Carmo sandwich East Pennsboro s Kailee Yoder en route to a jump ball Wednesday night in Palmyra. The Cougars rolled to the 28-point victory in the first round of the District Three tournament. (LEBANON DAILY NEWS JEREMY LONG)
PALMYRA - At least for now, the Palmyra High girls' basketball team must move forward without leading scorer Carly Richardson.

Isn't it ironic? The undefeated Cougars warmed up for their opening game in the District Three Class AAA playoffs Monday night by playing their faculty in a charity donkey basketball game.

And even though they suffered their first (unofficial) loss of the year, no one was bitten, no one was stepped on and no one got hurt, except for Gabi Gundermann's feelings when she fell off her donkey.

On Wednesday night during the real thing, the Cougars returned to business with a methodical 71-43 drubbing of East Pennsboro. But somebody very important got hurt: Richardson, the team's leading scorer.

Turning to run up court after a missed shot and needing 14 points to reach 1,000 for her career, the junior all-star turned and stepped on a foot, twisting her right ankle. She fell immediately to the court, clutching her ankle. The gym grew silent as the only sounds heard were her sobs of anguish and pain.

"It's one of those things, a part of the game," said coach Ron Berman, whose Mid-Penn champs moved to 25-0 and into the district quarterfinals at 4:30 p.m. Saturday against Eastern York at Milton Hershey. "Up until this point, we've been blessed. Nobody's gotten hurt. We're 25-0. We'll just have to take it a day at a time and see how she feels tomorrow. But they're telling me right now it's probably 7-10 days."

Richardson was having one of her best games of the year. Needing 26 points before the game to reach 1,000, she had nine in the first quarter and added a three-point play with 5:25 left in the half to give Palmyra a 22-18 lead.

Less than a minute later, she was out of the game.

Her absence promptly made her teammates play collectively better. Sophomore Kristen Smoluk hit two 3-pointers to finish out the half, and Kait Carmo and Gundermann nailed treys as the Cougars opened a 36-25 halftime.

They followed with a 24-point third quarter and the rout was on. Before it was over, four Cougars reached double figures, led by Smoluk's 14 and McClellan had nine. Freshman Molly Gundermann even hit a second-half 3-pointer for good measure.

The second-half onslaught made a believer of East Pennsboro coach Robert Kelly, whose team finished 14-10.

"Palmyra is definitely one of the better AAA teams in the state," he said. "We knew coming in here would be a formidable task. We did a good job of staying with them for a half, but they just wore us out.

"Even when Richardson went out, their level of play didn't fall off that much. How many 3-pointers did they have from how many different players? Ten? It seemed like it.

The Cougars  Kristin Smoluk, who led Palmyra with 14 points, defends an East Pennsboro player Wednesday night.
The Cougars Kristin Smoluk, who led Palmyra with 14 points, defends an East Pennsboro player Wednesday night. (LEBANON DAILY NEWS JEREMY LONG)
They have a lot of girls who can shoot the ball and play defense and rebound."

For the record, Palmyra had nine 3-pointers from seven different players, giving Berman reason to be optimistic. Gabi Gundermann had two on her way to 12 points, while Maria Tukis had 11 and Carmo 10.

"We'll get ready for Saturday and who knows? Maybe somebody new will step up to take Carly's place," he said. "She was having a great game tonight, too. We wanted her to get 26 to get to 1,000. But, oh well, maybe next time. Like I said, we've been very blessed. To be 25-0 sounds really great."

Richardson spent the rest of the night with her foot wrapped in ice, propped up on a bleacher. She said she'd be back soon.

"I'll be all right," she said. "I turned and stepped on a foot and sprained my ankle. I never had a problem with it before. It'll be OK."