HERSHEY – There may not be a more frustrating event for a basketball team's players, coaches or fans, especially for a successful team like the Palmyra boys squad.
A scoring drought.
Not just a few empty possessions in a row, but minutes draining off of the clock while the score on the scoreboard remains unchanged.
While one side's score remained unchanged, Hershey took advantage of an 8:55 scoring drought by Palmyra to put together a 14-0 run, taking the lead for good in a 45-36 victory in Mid Penn Keystone basketball Tuesday night. The loss eliminated Palmyra from the division title race, and Mechanicsburg took the crown with a 58-51 win over Lower Dauphin.
“We certainly didn't reverse the ball enough to get good shots,” Cougar coach Pete Conrad said of the scoreless stretch, which started late in the second quarter after Braden Vernet made a layup to put Palmyra (18-3, 10-3) up 18-15.
That was the halftime score, but before Palmyra scored again, Hershey (11-9, 7-6) was ahead 29-18. Jake Wilson scored 10 of his game-high 15 points in that early third-quarter run. For the first six minutes of the third, the Cougars were unable to solve the overplaying Hershey man-to-man defense, rarely getting a good look inside the arc.
Meanwhile, Hershey's offense, though not stalling, was usually deliberate in its execution, so opportunities for Palmyra to get its hands on the ball were limited.
But when Isaac Blatt hit a lay up with 2:00 left in the third, Palmyra found some rhythm again. The Cougars, who jumped from a two-point third quarter to a 16-point fourth quarter, got as close as 35-33 with 2:53 remaining in the final period after a Blatt 3-pointer.
“The ball reversed a little bit more, and the offensive principles were better in general,” Conrad said. “But you can't wait until the fourth quarter for an effective man-to-man offense.”
In the last 1:11 of the game, Hershey was 8-for-8 from the free throw line, and Palmyra never had a possession with a chance to tie or take the lead.
Hershey finished 11-for-13 from the foul line. Palmyra was 0-for-5, the low number of attempts due in part to the problems the Cougars had with the Trojan defense.
In the opening minutes, it appeared that Palmyra would have very little trouble with that defense, taking an 8-0 lead quickly with 3-point baskets by Vernet and Bryan Willis, followed by a short jumper from Bennett Von Stetten.
However, foreshadowing their later struggles, the Cougars scored only 10 points in the last 13 minutes of the half.
Blatt led Palmyra with 14 points and six rebounds. Willis scored 13.
Though Palmyra enters its season finale against Lower Dauphin out of division title and Mid -Penn playoff contention, the Cougars still have the District 3 Class 5A playoffs to look forward to. Palmyra was ranked No. 4 entering Tuesday's game.