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The Lower Dauphin girls basketball team is honing-in on developing dominant defense throughout its winter season.
And that effort shined midway through the fourth when the Falcons scored 18 of their 45 points and only allowed Palmyra 8.
“I’m proud of the team’s defense,” senior captain Lauren Wahlers said after the game. “That’s our strong suit right now. It’s a good place to be. Throughout the season we need to improve our scoring ability a little bit more. But that’ll come with time. I’m really happy with where we are right now. We’re only going to go up.”
The final score was 45-32 Falcons. It was the first of two meetings in the regular season for the District 3 Mid-Penn Conference Keystone Divisional matchups.
Wahlers, who scored 17 points on the night, said the Falcons saw the physical game coming. She thought her team adapted to the Cougars “physicality” and “were able to push through.”
“I wasn’t necessarily frustrated, but when I got defended, somebody else on my team was open,” she said. “So, I was able to dish it down to them. That’s almost better than scoring yourself; is getting your teammate to get up.”
Nearly 3 minutes elapsed before the first basket was scored. Lower Dauphin’s Shannon Angerer landed the first bucket. Palmyra’s squad quickly woke up and began taking shots, which gave them the lead a few minutes later. The Cougars were ahead by 3 entering the second quarter. Both Kaitlyn Pavusek and Kaylee Brown kept the Falcons at bay by grabbing one 3-pointer each.
Falcon Lillian Knudsen responded with her own 3-point contribution with just over 90 seconds left in the first half to tie it 19-19. Janae Swartz followed up with her 2 points to give the Falcons a 2-point advantage at halftime.
Despite the Falcons being up by 5 early in the third, the Cougars only fell behind by one point in that quarter. They wouldn’t allow Lower Dauphin to go on an extended run. The score after three quarters was 27-24 Lower Dauphin.
Continuing to trade baskets, the Falcons midway through the fourth began to hit shots and capitalized on baskets when they were fouled. The Falcons were 14 for 17 at the foul line.
With about 4 minutes remaining, Lower Dauphin had a comfortable edge that they were able to protect until the end.
“Everybody needs to look to be a scorer,” Palmyra head coach John Polly said. “It seemed like we got a little tentative in that fourth quarter. Nobody wanted to take a shot. It puts more pressure on your defense then because you need to stop every single possession. We can’t trade some baskets there. What ended up happening is they pulled away because we couldn’t score. We just need to be more aggressive offensively.”
The Falcons arrived at the Cougars’ gym fully recovered after a narrow 1-point loss to Mifflin County just a few days prior.
“We were down 13, 27 to 14, came all the way back 35 to 34, and then lost by 1,” Lower Dauphin head coach Tim Goss said. “They got an out-of-bounds score with about a minute to go in the game. We had some good looks, but they didn’t go in. That’s what happens sometimes. But I was proud of the way they battled back. And, they showed me, we talked about it. How do you respond to adversity? When you’re down 13, it’s easy to throw in the towel and just trade buckets, but they battled, and battled, and battled and came all the way back. I told them I was very proud of them for doing that. That will pay dividends down the road, when we have other tight games.”
There’s a lot of basketball left to play this season, Goss said.
“We took a different approach this year of defense first and work on the offense over time,” he said. “We’re getting better offensively, but hopefully our defense can carry us through tough games like tonight. Palmyra played well. Shot the ball well and battled. We know that. Coming over here, we’re close by. It’s always a tough game.”
Lower Dauphin is 7-2. Palmyra is 3-8.
Goss’s team has adopted a celebratory take on the season. The girls praised his coaching and recently celebrated his 50th win as head coach on social media. Goss returned to coaching a few years ago after having coached for 10 years at Lower Dauphin – as junior varsity head coach and varsity assistant under former head coach Bob Heusser. He said he stepped away to watch his son play basketball in college, but that he had missed coaching.
When he returned to basketball, he coached middle school, which includes athletes in the group he’s coaching now.
“So, it’s kind of special from that standpoint,” he said. “I told them initially that I was a little embarrassed, to be honest. You know 50 wins, we really should wait until 100. But, then I said, you know, for Varsity wins, you’ve girls have been here for all 50 of them. So, I said, that’s kind of special, I should share that with them because that’s a unique experience.”
Lower Dauphin: 10-11-6-18 – 45
Wahlers, 17; Knudsen, 11; Angerer, 7; Cayden Eismann, 4; Swartz, 4; Cassidy Piegzik, 2
Palmyra: 13-6-5-8 –32
Maddie Henry, 13; Pavusek, 9; Brown, 6; Keely Bowers, 2; Emma Sibbach, 2