The goal was to pick up its first home win of 2016. The kicker was beating a division foe for the first time in three years.
Led by Isaac Blatt's 22 points, the Palmyra boys basketball team sent Susquehanna Twp. packing, 73-66, Tuesday night via a fourth-quarter push. Locked in a back-and-forth second half that didn't produce an unanswered score until 5:25 remaining, Palmyra (9-3, 3-3 Mid-Penn Keystone) at last broke free with a 14-0 run populated by Blatt baskets and tough defense. The victory stands as the Cougars' fourth in a row and first over the Indians since a District 3 tournament triumph in February 2013.
"Susquehanna's always a really tough team, so it felt good to finally get a win against them," Blatt said. "Even though they lost a lot, they're still really talented. And I feel like we can continue that against anyone. We feel like we can keep playing that way the rest of the year and hopefully get a couple more big wins against our Mid-Penn competition."
Tuesday's game-winning stretch began with an ordinary Blatt layup followed by a tough defensive rebound and go-ahead free throws all courtesy of junior Braden Vernet (8 points). Staking its first post-intermission lead at 54-53, Palmyra then added a slew of additional Blatt scores around defensive stops from Sam Sheils and Bennett Von Stetten, which kept Susquehanna Twp. (3-8, 1-4) at bay.
Sheils' steal and score at 4:29 to play yielded not only a 5-point lead but an Indians timeout, as did Von Stetten upon drawing a charge 90 seconds later.
"I thought that was the first time that we played with the energy you need to have success in the Keystone," Cougars coach Pete Conrad said of the run. "And a lot of that was Sam and Bennett coming in with just really tough, energetic plays."
Palmyra seniors Austin Yetter (16 points) and Eric Lynn both nailed late free throws to stave off an ensuing Susquehanna Twp. charge brought on by full-court pressure. Each also navigated the Indians' traps well and assisted a hot shooting start for the Cougars.
Palmyra connected on better than 50 percent of its 3-point attempts over the first quarter, including a pair from both Blatt and Bryant Willis. Their efforts kept the Cougars largely ahead over the seesaw period, though Susquehanna Twp. nearly closed its deficit with a late 7-0 run furnished by Jordan McGraw, who scored a game-high 24 points.
But after three straight Palmyra misses from distance, senior Ethan Harro hit from an open spot on the right wing for a 23-18 lead heading into the next quarter. The Cougars then netted only netted six points over the last 6:03 of the first half, causing them to fall behind until their decisive run.
Palmyra will next travel to Cedar Cliff on Friday night.
"It's certainly something we're proud of, but the Keystone is all a grind," Conrad said of the victory. "Anybody you get in the Keystone, you're happy and you move on."
Palmyra 73, Susquehanna Twp. 66
Susquehanna Twp. (66)
Jordan McGraw 8 6-10 24, Jordan Lynch-Rexroth 2 0-0 4, Gerald Jarmin 3 4-4 10, Larson Hawley 1 0-0 3, Roland Norfleet 4 0-0 8, Aeneas Carter 4 2-2 12, Kelvin Fulwiley 2 0-0 5. Totals — 24 12-16 66.
Ethan Harro 1 0-0 3, Bryant Willis 4 1-4 11, Isaac Blatt 8 4-6 22, Eric Lynn 2 4-4 8, Braden Vernet 3 2-2 8, Austin Yetter 5 5-6 16, Bennett Von Stetten 1 0-0 2, Sam Sheils 1 1-2 3. Totals — 25 17-26 73.
ST_ 18_ 18_ 12_ 18 — _ 66
P_ 23_ 10_ 14_ 26 _ — _ 73
3-point goals — P 6 (Blatt 2, Willis 2, Yetter, Harro) ST 6 (Carter 2, McGraw 2, Fulwiley, Hawley)