Sunday, February 18, 2018
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Palmyra Tops Ephrata


Folks might look at Wednesday’s final score of the Ephrata Holiday Tournament championship game and think Palmyra handily thumped the host Mounts in a 6344 victory. But the game was much closer than the score suggests.

Turning point: Following a first quarter that featured five lead changes, Palmyra (9-1) switched from a man-to-man defense to a 1-3-1 zone in the opening six minutes of the second quarter.

It led to three Ephrata turnovers and two missed 3-point attempts from the Mounts (7-2) and allowed Palmyra to go on an 11-0 run. Palmyra outscored Ephrata 15-6 in the second quarter, resulting in a 31-21 halftime lead in favor of the Cougars.

“We just froze,” second-year Ephrata coach Charlie Fisher said of the Palmyra zone defense. “We put our feet in cement ... there were gaps. There were lanes for us to take advantage of. Early on we didn’t see it and that killed us.”

Comeback falls short: Palmyra went back to man-to-man defense in the final two minutes of the second quarter and never again used its zone defense, perhaps helping Ephrata climb back to within 3733 at the 2:23 mark of the third quarter.

That was the closest the Mounts came, though, as Palmyra went on an 8-0 run from there to push its lead back to double digits with six minutes remaining. Ephrata ran out of gas at that point.

Learning lesson: Wednesday’s matchup could be a potential preview of what could come later in the season, as Palmyra and Ephrata will likely be in the District Three Class 5A playoffs. And the Cougars looked like they could contend for the district crown this year.

Despite the score, Ephrata isn’t too far off, either, as a young Mounts squad that starts just one senior and is in the midst of a turnaround season continues to develop. So perhaps Wednesday could be used a learning lesson should Ephrata see Palmyra later in the season.

“I said ‘ Guys, there’s a difference between being a team that is where we’re at ... competing being 7-2 and winning these games being 7-2,’ ” Fisher said. “We competed for awhile and we’re just not at that point yet.”

Milestone: Palmyra senior and tournament Most Valuable Player Isaac Blatt (game-high 28 points) threw down five dunks over the course of play and hit a game-ending free-throw to give him 1,000 career points.

Ephrata sophomore point guard Dilyn Becker and senior guard/ forward Micah Krauter each tallied 12 points.