Derek Ford scored the game-winning bucket with five seconds left to lift the Colts past Palmyra 62-60. Austin Yetter reached the career 1,000-point mark in the loss.


PALMYRA -  Pete Conrad hoped Senior Night might provide enough motivation for his Palmyra boys’ basketball team.

But, though his boys came mighty close, the Cougars couldn’t quite match Cedar Cliff’s motivation of playing for its season.

Facing a potential must-win, the Colts did just that, edging Palmyra 62-60 Tuesday night in a Mid-Penn Keystone finale. Derek Ford, who scored a game-high 20, bucketed the game-winner on a drive off a feed from Mark Shultz with 5 seconds left.

Tyler LaFaver, who scored a career-high 12 points in just his fourth game of the season, knocked away a Palmyra in-bounds pass near the basket as time expired. Reserve Patrick Wiestling also scored a career-high 12 for Cedar Cliff.

Conrad’s Cougars (16-5, 9-5) and Jim Rowe’s Colts (13-8, 9-5) will share second place in the Keystone. They split the regular-season series. Only the champ, Bishop McDevitt, earns an invite to next week’s Mid-Penn tournament.

“Cedar Cliff is playing to get in [to the District 3-AAAA playoffs], and you would hope that we have almost the same passion – just to play for our seniors who’ve meant so much to our program – but we didn’t defend at the level we needed to win this game,” said Conrad, whose Cougars will be headed to the District 3-AAA playoffs after finishing the regular season Wednesday night at Susquehannock.

“There you have it. It’s a game we desperately wanted to win, but at the same time we got to compartmentalize this as a lesson to be more ready to defend next time we take the floor.”

Austin Yetter, three-year starter, celebrated Senior Night by scoring the 1,000th point of his career. He finished with a team-high 11 points, and his 3-pointer midway through the first quarter put him over a grand. He left the game in the fourth quarter, though, after appearing to sprain his ankle.

“I should be fine in a week,” Yetter said later.

Classmate and fellow three-year starter Eric Lynn scored 10, as did reserve Sam Sheils. Isaac Blatt added nine points, seven rebounds and six assists. Lynn dished out seven assists.

But Palmyra never could get the lead in the final stanza.

Down 30-29 at halftime, the Cougars enjoyed their final lead (42-40) on a Sheils 3-pointer with 1:15 left in the third.

Cedar Cliff ended the quarter on a 7-0 run, then led throughout most of the fourth with Palmyra hanging close.

A 3-pointer by Bryant Willis with 26 seconds left finally tied it for Palmyra, but the Colts’ next drive ended with Ford’s finish from Shultz (seven points, nine rebounds, six assists, two blocks).

Lynn was fouled with 1 second left, but it was only the Colts’ sixth team foul. So, out of the in-bounds, the Cougars looked for the 6-5 Blatt curling toward the basket.

But there was the 5-9 LaFaver and Brandt Walter (seven points, five rebounds, seven assists, two blocks) to defend, knock away and clinch victory for Cedar Cliff, which entered this game 19th in the District 3-AAAA power rankings. (Top 20 advance.)

“Since there was 1 second left, I knew they had to throw something to the basket,” said LaFaver, who was expected to miss the entire season after fall surgery to remove a benign tumor on his femur. “And right away I saw Blatt curl around, so I figured they were going to throw it up to him because of his height. I read it. Just had to knock it down.”

“I never heard our locker room after a win like that, and this guy has a lot to do with it,” Rowe said of LaFever, who hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter and a jumper at the end of the third quarter. Ford added a bucket at the end of the first half.

“He’s a passionate player. We haven’t had him pretty much the whole season. We’re 4-0 since he came back. I don’t know if that means anything. But he made some big shots, some big plays tonight. He’s like the spiritual guy out there, keeping everybody together.”

Cedar Cliff shot 57 percent (27 of 47) from the floor, including five of 10 from deep. The Colts also had a 30-26 rebounding edge, including 15-8 in the second half. Palmyra finished 42 percent (22 of 52) from the floor (10 of 23 from deep) and had a 9-4 turnover advantage.

The Cougars also got to celebrate one of the Mid-Penn’s top players in Yetter.

“Like any public school that’s not recruiting, you’re going to be cyclical,” Conrad said. “And we had a great senior group when he was a freshman. They went on a deep playoff run. Then we took a big step back losing all those seniors. Austin’s been in the valley. I don’t know that we’re at the mountaintop, but we’re climbing the mountain. He’s gone from 5-17 his first year and seen this program, more than any other single player, through some growing pains and some serious progress. He has been a metronome in terms of consistency.”

Morrow on Twitter: @RageAgainstGMo

Cedar Cliff 62, Palmyra 60

Cedar Cliff (62)

Brandt Walter 3 1-1 7, Derek Ford 9 0-1 20, Sam Myers 2 0-0 4, Tyler LaFaver 5 0-0 12, Mark Shultz 3 0-1 7, Patrick Wiestling 5 2-4 12, Tim Donatucci 0 0-0 0. Totals — 27 3-7 62..

Palmyra (60)

Kelly Shughart 0 0-0 0, Ethan Harro 1 2-2 5, Eric Lynn 4 1-2 10, Austin Yetter 4 1-2 11, Noah Reale 0 0-0 0, Alec Cleckner 0 0-0 0, Bryant Willis 2 0-0 6, Isaac Blatt 4 0-0 9, Braden Vernet 2 1-1 5, Bennett Von Stetten 2 0-1 4, Sam Sheils 3 1-2 10. Totals — 22 6-10 60. .

CC_ 19_ 11_ 17_ 15 _ — _ 62

P_ 17_ 12 _ 13_ 18 — _ 60

3-point goals — CC 5 (Ford 2, LaFaver 2, Shultz) P 10 (Sheils 3, Yetter 2, Willis 2, Harro, Lynn, Blatt.)

JV score — Cedar Cliff 55, Palmyra 24

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