See the top five plays as the Cougars dropped a 78-41 game to the Patriots in the PIAA Class 5A Second Round. Matt Catrillo/GameTimePA.com
READING – Snow days are fun, yes.
But when you’re filled with the anxiousness of waiting to play a state playoff game, all you can do is try to make the best of a tricky situation.
Nonetheless, that was the situation for both the Palmyra boys basketball team, and its opponent, District 12 third place finisher Archbishop Carroll.
But now there will be a lot more waiting for the Cougars – in anticipation of a new season – as a sluggish start cost Palmyra in a 78-41 loss to the Patriots in the PIAA Class 5A second round Thursday at Reading High’s Geigle Complex.
“The snow did throw us off a little bit, but we were able to practice,” said one of outgoing Cougar seniors, Isaac Blatt. “We still had fun at practices. It just really didn’t translate into the game, I guess.”
With the win, Archbishop Carroll faces Northeastern, a 61-40 winner Thursday over Upper Merion, in Saturday’s quarterfinals. Time and place are to be determined.
Season’s end, with a 22-6 record, also means each of Palmyra’s eight seniors have played their final game in a Cougars uniform.
And that’s what hurts the most.
“It’s definitely disappointing,” said senior Bennett Von Stetten. “We prepped really hard for this game and gave it our all. Shots didn’t fall, and theirs did.”
The Cougars had a rough time finding their rhythm offensively, not recording their first field goal until the 1:29 mark of the first quarter.
That did, however, trigger a 7-2 Palmyra run to get within 13-7 at the end of the first.
But the Patriots starting finding their rhythm in the second, jumping out to their largest lead at 26-14 with 4:40 until the half, thanks to a 13-5 run.
Though Palmyra was able to cut the deficit to nine at the break, Carroll put the game away in the third, outscoring the Cougars 22-7.
And for a group of seniors that had grown up together, the reality began to set in that their time on the court was ending.
“It’s been an honor really,” Blatt said. “Coach (Pete) Conrad is the best coach I’ve ever had, and playing with my fellow seniors has been great.”
“We’ve grown really close these last four years,” Von Stetten said. “The last two especially have really been successful in our league, and we made a run this year. That’s a great honor.”
What made this Cougars’ senior class successful in leading their team to a memorable season like this was everyone knowing their role and embracing it.
For Von Stetten, his role was doing some of the work that has a tendency to go unnoticed.
“I’m definitely not really an offensive threat,” Von Stetten said. “But I try to do everything I can on the boards, and defensively, I always try to guard opponent’s best perimeter guy. I just do what I can to try and make the team better.”
Because of the on-court success, along with having such close relationships with each senior, Conrad made it known just how much he will miss this particular group of seniors.
“I’m incredibly lucky,” Conrad said. “That senior class is very special. They were special in how they performed. That group raised the bar. I feel fortunate to have been able to be around them and coach them, and see how those guys defined themselves and how they worked to be good at what they do.”
When asked the typical legacy question, the fitting message among the Cougars’ seniors to the rest of their team was to simply continue what’s been done all this time, and remember what the program is about.
Von Stetten said, “We hope that they learned to stick together, and that your culture as a team is very important down the stretch. In any game, if you’re down or up, staying together and playing hard. I think we definitely raised the bar as far as what the expectations of Palmyra are, and what we’re made to be.”