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Palmyra boys know they're still tough to beat

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PALMYRA – Consider what the Palmyra Cougars boys basketball team has done this season – 19 wins, winning 17 of them in their last 19 games.

But the two losses mixed in cost the Cougars a chance for a Mid Penn Keystone Division title - one of those against the visiting Lower Dauphin Falcons on Jan. 10.

The other was against rival Hershey on Tuesday, which officially ended Palmyra’s chances of a division title, so the only thing to do was to look ahead and get playoff ready, knowing they’re still one of the teams to beat.

And playoff-ready teams find a way to win ugly, which is exactly what the Cougars did for win No. 19 in a 52-41 victory over Lower Dauphin on Friday on Senior Night.

“I was real proud of our response,” Palmyra coach Pete Conrad said. “For it to be senior night and for our seniors to be such a tough and together group … to have a response against a very good Lower Dauphin team and a rival, and honestly a team that’s a tough match up for us. They play a unique zone, and play it well and aggressively, which gave us fits last time.”

You bet revenge was on the minds of the Cougars, especially the eight seniors, who wanted their final home game to be a win over their division rival.

“We were hunting for this game just like the second Mechanicsburg game,” said Isaac Blatt, who led all scorers with 19 points in the final regular-season game on his home court. “We really wanted to have this one. It’s special playing on our home court, especially in a rivalry game. Hopefully we can have two more home games for the playoffs.”

Bryant Willis also laid it all out on the floor with 15 points, including four threes, while fellow senior Braden Vernet finished with eight points. Bennett Von Stetten was another senior who stepped up for the Cougars, finishing with eight points.

Now with the regular season officially in the books, Palmyra will play a waiting game, disappointed it won’t have the chance to compete in the MPC Tournament.

While the Cougars could use its conference tourney snub as motivation, they already know they’re primed for a deep run in the district tournament.

“I guess it’s motivation, but we feel we’re one of the top teams in districts,” Blatt said. “Hopefully we’ll be in the top four, but we feel we can make it all the way to the district final. We’re one of the hardest teams to guard, and we can defend with the best of them, too.”

In fact, the Cougars are ironically just a few percentage points ahead of division champ Mechanicsburg in the Class 5A standings, with the teams at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively.

But Palmyra still looks to use its time off to their advantage.

“We’re focused on getting better,” Conrad said. “We’ll talk about getting fresh, and we want to compete for a district championship. Obviously, we’re in that mix as a bunch of those good teams. We’ve got a bunch of quality wins we can hang our hat on, we play in a league that really tests us. We’re looking forward to that next challenge.”