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How Palmyra boys can beat teams in different ways

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Good teams win several games, but better teams can win several games in different ways.

Palmyra defeated Bishop McDevitt 52-48 in Mid-Penn Keystone boys' basketball Tuesday night, sweeping the season series from the Crusaders.

This contest, though, was different from the higher-scoring, more lopsided 70-50 Cougar victory Jan. 21.

“They made us sit down a long time to defend,” Palmyra head coach Pete Conrad said. “But once we had the lead, it's harder to maintain that.”

Although the Crusaders did have the Cougars (17-2, 9-2) off balance for much of the first three quarters, Palmyra showed why its built to win this kind of game, even against a more guard-oriented team like Bishop McDevitt (10-6, 6-5).

“When you have all that height [four starters at 6-foot-3 or taller], can you defend a bunch of quick guards?” Conrad said. “Two guys have done that for us, in [Braden] Vernet and [Bennett] Von Stetten. We've got the pieces to be a really good defensive team. [Carl] Reigle comes off the bench defensively, and [Sam] Shiels come of the bench and defends the ball.”

So even though 1,000-point scorer Isaac Blatt was held without a field goal, the Cougars were still in the game, just down 36-31 entering the fourth quarter.

Blatt, who was 9-for-14 from the free throw line, made two free throws to start a 7-0 run for Palmyra at the start of the fourth. Shiels had a layup and Bryant Willis hit a 3-pointer to put the home Cougars up 38-36.

At that point, Palmyra's defense was really settling in. The Cougars allowed only 12 points in the fourth quarter, and they never trailed again.

There was some confusion at the end of the game, after the Crusaders' Anthony Diaz hit a 3-pointer, making it 50-48 with the clock running under seven seconds.

Bishop McDevitt head coach and former Palmyra head coach Mike Gaffey called a time out with 3.5 seconds left - but the Crusaders were out of stoppages. After the referees consulted each other and gave Bishop McDevitt a technical foul, Blatt took two free throws, making one.

Then Palmyra had the ball back due to the technical, and Blatt was fouled before the ball was inbounded. Blatt made one of two again to put the game away.

Willis led the Cougars with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Vernet added 11 points.

Richard Stuart paced Bishop McDevitt with 14 points. Chris Briner scored 10.

Palmyra had a 29-24 rebounding advantage, but was on the wrong side of a 13-10 turnover differential.

Conrad said that it was not the Cougars' best effort, calling it a “B grade.”

“But it was a win against a good team,” Conrad said. “Let's not lose that. … Have we gotten better every day? I doubt it. That's beating human nature. But we have gotten better. We are pleased with the effort. We just don't want to get complacent about the effort.”