After getting off to a solid start the boys team was struck by the “Polk County curse” again, scoring in single digits for a quarter that allowed the visiting Bears to steal the lead and the 56-49 victory.
Early season rust was very evident as the girls took the floor. The ’Kittens struggled all night on both sides of the ball and were forced to settle for a 47-17 defeat.
Tellico 56, Polk 49
An early offensive surge found Polk County with an early 14-9 first quarter lead. Senior center Derick Weber made his presence felt early on both boards, while sophomore Gage Locke and junior Cody Groomes tried to establish the offensive pace of play.
Unfortunately, this year’s Wildcat hardwood team showed a glimpse of last season’s greatest weakness, a single digit scoring quarter that caused a massive swing in momentum.
“The quarter,” laughed head coach Rusty Brewer with a smile.
“Those quarters are tough. We came out and played really well the first quarter. Then we had that single digit quarter again, and that just dug us into a hole.”
The team managed just seven second-quarter points. Tellico on the other hand caught fire from behind the arc, sinking four threes on the way to an 18-point lead-changing quarter.
As the teams took to the locker room, it was the visiting Bears who found themselves on the winning side of a 28-21 score.
Third quarter play still saw the Wildcats trying to find some offensive momentum. On the other hand, Tellico’s perimeter shooting opened up the paint game.
Polk found itself trailing by 12 points heading into the final period, and that’s when Groomes really turned it on to give his team a shot at a season-opening win.
Groomes accounted for 10 of the Wildcats’ 18 fourth-quarter points, allowing the team to claw back into the ball game.
With just minutes left to play, Polk cut the lead to five points, but the Bears held firm and managed to walk away with the win.
“Despite the final, I’m really proud of these guys. We were down by double digits at one point and our kids kept battling back and gave us a chance to get the win. As long as the effort and attitude is there, and I thought we got that all night, the other things we can work on,” explained Brewer.
Lady Bears 47,
It was a rough night on the girls’ side of the ball. Struggles on both the offense and defense led to a one-sided game that had Polk scratching their heads all night.
“It was chaos out there tonight. I’m going to go ahead and chalk it up to pregame jitters, because that’s what it better have been. If that’s not what was, it’s going to be a very long season,” stated a baffled head coach Johnny Hayes.
Six and a half minutes of play were required for the Wildkittens to first find the scoreboard off a Felecia Johnson free throw. That single point amounted to the entire home scoring for the first quarter.
Things didn’t get much better. With only a minute left in the half it looked to be a real possibility that Polk’s girls would finish an entire half of basketball with a single point.
Luckily, that never came to fruition as senior Emily Wilson sunk the team’s first field goal with 1:07 left in the half (the team’s only points of the second quarter) to send the Wildkittens into the break lagging behind 23-3.
One of the most frustrating things to come out of the first half for Hays was his team’s 1-for-10 performance at the free-throw line.
“We couldn’t shoot the ball at all — free throws or from the field. When the team is struggling to shoot the ball we have to use those free-throw opportunities as a chance to calm down and get some momentum,” Hayes stated.
The team picked up slightly in the second half, but it was not nearly enough to make a dent against a surging Tellico offense that continued to rack up points, cruising to the 47-17 final.
Both Polk squads will have some time to evaluate their performances. The boys team will next take the floor Friday, Nov. 23, as they travel to Cleveland to face the host Blue Raiders at noon on the first day of the MurMaid Mattress Thanksgiving Classic.
The Wildkittens will play the same day at 4:30 against Hardin Valley in the same tournament.