The Cougars failed to close the door during a tough Mid-Penn road test and fell to 3-1 on the season

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MECHANICSBURG - If you’re part of a really competitive Mid-Penn Keystone Division array that might not sport a clear-cut favorite, any victory one can pinch away from home can really make a difference in the standings.

Yet while Pete Conrad’s Palmyra Cougars had a chance to pick up another road triumph Tuesday night, they weren’t able to get it done.

And in this eight-team circuit, almost doesn’t count for anything.

Kyle Scheib banked nine of his 14 points in the fourth quarter — including seven straight at one crucial stretch — as host Mechanicsburg ground out a 58-54 victory over the Cougars in a scrap that was tight throughout.

Neither side, in fact, ever led by more than six points.

Nate Vrabel (12), Doug Edgar (10) and Cade Alioth (10) also reached double figures for Bob Strickler’s Wildcats (3-2, 2-1).

Alioth also snagged 11 rebounds.

Austin Yetter pocketed 16 points and Bryant Willis hopped off the bench to chip in 13 for the Cougars (3-1, 1-1), who have yet to play at home.

“I think there are a couple things in play here,” Conrad admitted. “We’ve got some veterans in place and we’ve got some young guys that fill roles, too. I think there was maybe some sense of this was going to be easy because Mechanicsburg’s got a loss and we beat [a Lower Dauphin] team fairly easy [on Friday night].

“Nothing in the Keystone is going to be easy, and hopefully my guys understand that a little better. The league is going to be super wide open. Mechanicsburg’s a very good team and you’re going to see back-and-forth like this throughout.”

In a contest featuring five ties and eight lead changes, back-and-forth works.

Mechanicsburg was trailing 50-49 with 4:24 showing when Scheib uncorked a seven-point salvo he capped at 55.1 seconds to go by knocking down both ends of a two-shot trip to the foul line that had the Wildcats up 56-52.

“Kyle has worked awfully hard to have the ball in those situations,” Strickler said of the 5-11 junior, who posted all 14 of his points after the break. “And to see him step up and answer the bell, no practice can simulate what he just experienced.”

“Give them a lot of credit,” Conrad said. “Scheib was able to make big plays down the stretch, I thought, after [Eric] Lynn did a good job containing him in the first half.He responded in the second half and made a lot of big plays down the stretch.”

Moments after Scheib canned both of his pops at the line, Lynn flashed to the tin with an Isaac Blatt dish, cutting the Cougars’ deficit to two.

And when Mechanicsburg committed a turnover with 17.6 to play, Conrad’s bunch still had a chance to tie or even emerge a victor.

Working the clock methodically, the ball eventually wound up in Yetter’s capable hands just beyond the foul line. Although the 6-foot-1 senior found himself in a crowd, he still managed to hoist up a jumper that could have tied it.

The ball, however, glanced off the rim and Mechanicsburg’s Shane Homick latched on. Fouled instantly, Homick buried two free throws to seal the home win.

“Honestly, I was asked to pick the league before the season and I wouldn’t do it because I think the league is so wide open that I don’t see anybody as a favorite,” Conrad recalled. “So there’s going to be some of this and, in that sense, it does make it more precious that you hung in a game like this and didn’t finalize.”

Especially when you’re in position to pinch another road win.

Mechanicsburg 58, Palmyra 54

Palmyra (54)

Ethan Harro 2 0-0 6, Isaac Blatt 4 0-0 9, Eric Lynn 3 0-0 6, Braden Vernet 1 0-0 2, Austin Yetter 6 0-0 16, Bryant Willis 2 7-8 13, Alec Cleckner 0 0-0 0, Sam Sheils 0 2-2 2, Bennett Von Stetten 0 0-0 0. Totals — 18 9-10 54.

Mechanicsburg (58)

Shane Homick 3 2-2 9, Nate Vrabel 3 4-5 12, Kyle Scheib 4 6-7 14, Cade Alioth 3 4-8 10, Doug Edgar 3 3-3 10, Davey Kovalchik 1 0-0 3, Nate Mayernick 0 0-0 0. Totals — 17 19-25 58.    

Pal_ 14_ 15 _ 15 _10_ — _ 54  

Mech_ 14_ 17_ 11 _16 _ — _ 58

3-point goals — Palmyra 9 (Harro 2, Blatt, Yetter 4, Willis 2), Mech 5 (Homick, Vrabel 2, Edgar, Kovalchik).

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