BENTON — It took a fourth-quarter rally to force overtime, but Polk County claimed its first-ever District 5-AA regular season boys' championship Friday evening.
In a true "cat fight," the Boys from Benton were able to rally past Sweetwater 65-62 to claim the top spot in this week's District 5-AA Tournament, in Athens.
"I am proud of these guys," proclaimed head coach Jon Tucker, who was voted by his peers at the District Coach of the Year earlier this week. "This is such an awesome experience not only for our team, but for our community. This is a memory that will last a lifetime."
While both Polk County and Sweetwater finish the regular season at 19-5, plus splitting their two games, the "Red" Wildcats get the top seed over the "Blue-and-Gold" Wildcats by virtue of an 8-2 district record, while the boys from Monroe County went 7-3 against 5-AA opponents.
"We now have a week to rest up and prepare for the post season," declared Coach Tucker. "We still have business to take care of."
Both teams automatically advance to the district tournament semifinals Friday, where Polk awaits the winner of No. 4 Loudon (14-10, 6-4) and fifth-seeded Sequoyah (9-14, 3-7).
As the No. 2 seed, Sweetwater will tangle with the winner of third-seeded McMinn Central (10-13, 6-4) and No. 6 Meigs County (0-20, 0-10), in the other semifinal.
Both sets of Wildcats have already qualified for the Region 3-AA Tournament the following week.
Friday's regular season finale was a see-saw battle with Polk holding a slim 12-10 edge at the first horn, while Sweetwater took a 12-11 advantage in the second frame, leaving the hosts up 23-22 at the intermission.
The visitors, who won the first meeting between the teams by a 68-61 tally, were able to go up by a half-dozen with a 21-14 third-period run.
Polk returned the favor in the fourth quarter with a 20-14 streak to leave the score knotted at 57-all when the regulation buzzer blared.
In the extra four-minute period, Polk was able to outscore the visitors 8-5 for the victory.
Co-District Player of the Year Caleb Milen only scored two of his game-high 28 points in the first half. He netted all 14 Polk markers in the third period, including two of his three 3-pointers on the night, then dropped in eight in the fourth and four free throws in the extra time. He also cleared five rebounds and dished out four assists.
Fellow POY winner Luke Burrows helped out with 15 points, 11 of which came in the first two frames, before fouling out late in the contest. The Tennessee Wesleyan two-sport signee added 10 caroms for a double-double.
Tanner Patterson also tingled the nylon for 15 points, including two key buckets in the overtime. He also pulled down seven boards. Kevin Dodd claimed seven ricochets in the victory.
The Hicks boys paced Sweetwater, with Drew drilling five treys on his way to 17 points, while Carson had a trio of triples in his 13 points. Austin Long also netted a baker's dozen, while Aaron Littleton added 10.
Sweetwater (8-16, 4-6) claimed the close girls' game by a 35-32 margin, but the Polk (10-11, 4-6) still claim the No. 3 seed for the tournament and will battle sixth-seeded Loudon (7-17, 1-9) Wednesday in the postseason opener at 6 p.m.
The winner will advance to take on No. 2 seed McMinn Central (14-9, 8-2) in Friday's semifinal round.
Polk County's Caleb Hindeman was also named the District Coach of the Year this week, while Courtney Farr and Callie Brewer were voted All-District team.
at Ron Davis Court
Friday, Feb. 14
Sweetwater . 10 . 12 . 21 . 14 . 5 — 62
Polk County . 12 . 11 . 14 . 20 . 8 — 65
SWEETWATER (62) — Drew Hicks 17, Carson Hicks 13, Austin Long 13, Aaron Littleton 10, Jayce Upton 5, Alford 4, Johnson, Kile, Correll, Pippen.
POLK (65) — Caleb Milen 28, Luke Burrows 15, Tannar Patterson 15, Cross 3, Burgess 3, Groomes 1, Dodd, Adams.
3-point goals: SW 8 (D. Hicks 5, C. Hicks 3); PC 4 (Milen 3, Burrows).
Free throws: SW 6-of-14; PC 19-of-26.
Records: Sweetwater 19-5, 7-3 District 5-AA; Polk County 19-5, 8-2 District 5-AA.