The young Cougars struggled on Friday night, falling to a tougher, more polished LD team, 39-21
It is, of course, a game of matchups.
And the Lower Dauphin girls basketball team is the type of opponent that can present a host of matchup problems to even the best of teams, given its patient, disciplined offense and ultra hard-nosed defense.
Those attributes make LD particularly problematic for a young, evolving team like Palmyra.
That was most apparent on Friday night, as the Cougars fell victim to LD by a 39-21 count in a Mid-Penn Keystone Division matchup at Lower Dauphin High School.
Fresh off a thrilling win over first-place Bishop McDevitt on Tuesday night, Palmyra (8-7, 4-5) matched up well early, battling the Falcons (12-4, 7-2) to a 9-9 first quarter draw, then taking an 11-9 lead on an Olivia Richardson putback 53 seconds into the second quarter. But from there, the Cougars went scoreless the rest of the first half, unable to connect from the perimeter against LD's tenacious zone defense, and never really found their mojo again.
Hey, it happens.
"I think it's more the style of play," said Ron Berman, Palmyra's veteran head coach of the difficulties his team endured on Friday night. "Lower Dauphin makes you handle the ball more, they make you work for your shots more, and they make you defend more. As a result, we're better off at this stage playing a team that's a little more uptempo. I think (the outcome) was more the style of play than a letdown from Tuesday night."
To its credit, Palmyra made a go of it early in the third quarter, pulling to within 20-16 on a pair of Kailey Werkheiser free throws 2:03 into the period.
That was the high water mark for the Cougars, though, as LD, led by 11 points from Sarah Gibbs and 10 more from slashing guard Amber Schweiger, closed the third with a 10-1 burst that all but put the game away. The foul trouble that sent a key player, senior forward Josie Stovall, to the bench didn't help matters much.
"I didn't think at halftime we were out of the game, down 18-11," Berman said. "Because I know the game's gonna be in the 30s. I guess it was that third quarter stretch that really deflated us. And Josie picked up her fourth foul, that's my second-leading scorer. That combination hurt."
The closest Palmyra would get was 30-19, on Stovall's only bucket, with 7:07 left, as Lower Dauphin's advantages became even more apparent as the contest wore on.
"This is just a very poor matchup for us," Berman emphasized. "They're stronger than we are physically and they get too many easy points on us, Some years I can uptempo the game enough, but I don't have the players to do that right now."
But that's not to say that Berman is displeased with this group, which is led by seniors Molly Gundermann and Stovall and emerging freshmen Richardson and Amelia Baldo and has had the unenviable task of following last season's state semifinal team. It's won seven of 10 since a 1-4 start, and has brighter days ahead, as evidenced by the McDevitt win.
"I'm really excited about the team. I think we're doing well," Berman said. "Tonight we took a little step back, but we have a saying that you're never as good as you think you are after your last win and you're never as bad as you think you are after your last loss. We're typically playing better longer, so I'm pleased with that."
Lower Dauphin 39, Palmyra 21
Amelia Baldo 0 2-4 2, Shannon Carmo 0 0-0 0, Kailey Werkheiser 0 2-2 2, Josie Stovall 1 0-0 2, Molly Gundermann 2 0-0 6, Olivia Richardson 2 1-2 6, Hayley Schultz 0 0-0 0, Mara Bowman 1 0-0 3, Hannah McLucas 0 0-0 0, Jordyn Garcia 0 0-0 0 Totals — 6 5-8 21.
Lower Dauphin (39)
Sarah Gibbs 5 1-1 11, Amber Schweiger 5 0-1 10, Alex Leader 1 0-0 2, Candace Means 3 0-0 7, Paulina Malinan 2 2-2 7, Livi Friedrich 0 2-2 2, Totals — 16 5-6 39.
Palmyra _ 9 _ 2 _ 6 _ 4 _ — _ 21
Lower Dauphin _ 9 _ 9 _ 12 _ 9 _ — _ 39
3-point goals — P: Gundermann 2, Richardson, Bowman, LD: Means, Malinan.
JV score — Palmyra 44, Lower Dauphin 32.