EPHRATA — One really can’t blame a pair of character guys for making a late-game statement.
Though the final outcome was no longer in doubt, there was one thing that Palmyra senior forward Isaac Blatt needed to do. There was something Cougars’ coach Pete Conrad still needed to see. There was something still driving the Cougars’ players on the court and on the bench. There was something still sparking the enthusiastic visiting crowd at Ephrata Middle School Wednesday night.
Blatt needed one more point. He got to the free-throw line thanks the hustle of his teammates and his own prowess on the offensive glass. His first shot missed. His second was true. And after a last second heave from the Ephrata Mountaineers, Blatt’s personal milestone and his team’s 63-44 victory in the Ephrata Holiday Tournament became official.
Eleven field goals, including a pair of 3-pointers, plus 4-for-8 foul shooting, not only gave Blatt 28 points to take game-high honors and earn the tournament MVP — that final point was No. 1,000 of his career.
“You needed 28 coming in so really, you’re basically thinking that’s a bit of a longshot,” said Cougars’ head coach Pete Conrad. “Especially because Ephrata is a really good defensive team. What happened there was we kind of got them into a situation where they had to chase, so we got easy baskets.”
“I’ve got tremendous respect for Charlie Fisher and his program so I don’t want to offend them,” Conrad added. “I don’t want to look like I’m showing them up. At the same time for our program, let’s get that out of the way, let’s be proud of Isaac.”
And the quiet, humble, six-foot-plenty fella never batted an eye. Unassuming yet perfectly sincere, however, Blatt wore a smile on his face afterward that could light up any gymnasium.
“I honestly didn’t think I was going to get it this game. I needed a lot,” Blatt said in regard to his mindset going into the game and then in the fourth quarter. “Finishing off the tournament would be a great way to get a thousand. That was part of that, I don’t know, motivation, to get to that goal.”
First, Palmyra had to take care of business on the scoreboard. They did so thanks to an up-tempo game plan and a 15-6 second quarter blitz to go into halftime up by ten points.
“We had as much success as we’ve had all year in transition and that was a big key to our victory,” Conrad said. “(Sam) Sheils was opportunistic with the ball. I just thought our guys did a good job of getting the ball and pushing tempo.”
Sheils finished with 11 points, Bennett Von Stetten added 10 points, and Bryant Willis had eight points to help pace the offense, not to mention a cadre of crowd-pleasing dunks by Blatt.
“Our guys were passing really well; (Ephrata was) pressuring us so we got some easy back-doors,” Blatt said.
“When a 1,000-point scorer is such a willing passer, is so willing to see his teammates score, his teammates to have success,” Conrad began. “I think that’s great for our whole offensive culture, to let them know he’s willing to pass and that makes them willing to pass because they don’t find him selfish.”
Perhaps, the appreciation of his peers and teammates is what ultimately makes Blatt’s milestone more impressive, and more significant, in a way.
“We talk about process all the time,” Conrad said. “Sometimes we try to stay away from talking about destination. A thousand points is a destination; you’re just really happy for that kid to hit that particular milestone. (He) worked so hard, played four years, now he’s the experienced leader. Just really happy for that kid.”
Elco Raiders 67, Oley Valley 38
The Raiders (2-6) took advantage of a balanced offense and eager rebounding to trounce Oley Valley in Wednesday’s boys’ consolation bout. Nate Beamer and Mason Bossert each contributed 18 points while Ryan Eshelman had 14 to pace Elco.
Incidentally, Bossert’s 41-point performance in the Ephrata tournament leaves him just 12 points shy of 1,000 for his career heading into next week’s home matchup versus Annville-Cleona on Jan. 3.
Lady Cougars 53, Lady Mounts 36
Palmyra (6-4) outscored host Ephrata 37-11 in the middle two quarters en route to the 17-point victory in Wednesday afternoon’s girls’ consolation as the Lady Cougars erased a 10-1 first quarter deficit.
Olivia Richardson turned in a game-high 20 points, Annabelle Copeland added 11, and Amelia Baldo chipped-in with nine to pace the Cougars’ attack, while Ephrata’s Caroline Stauffer tallied ten points, eclipsing the 1,000-point mark in her own right.