Girls’ play saw plenty of drama when both squads refused to give quarter and were pushed to a 51-50 Wildkitten decision in overtime by a clutch, game-winning free throw.
Walker Valley’s boys provided the home team with some revenge though, as they outmuscled Polk County and captured a big 56-37 win.
When play between Walker Valley’s Lady Mustangs and Polk County’s Wildkittens tippded off no one could have been expecting the dramatic down-to-the-wire finish that resulted.
The game started with Walker Valley jumping out to a quick lead, before Polk’s Emily Wilson brought the ’Kittens back into the thick of it with back-to-back 3s to close the first quarter.
The back-and-forth continued in the second quarter. Wilson sparked Polk with another key 3, but the Lady Mustangs were able to fend off the advance thanks in part to solid play from their bench.
Walker Valley’s Rachel Lawhorn provided her team with a spark as she made key buckets and helped anchor the defense early.
Going into the half the Lady Mustangs held a slim 23-21 lead, but things were about to get memorable in the second half.
Both teams retook the floor, and it was Walker Valley that came out hot. As a team, they limited Polk to single-digit scoring in the third quarter while jumping out to a double-digit lead.
As the game entered the final quarter a switch seemed to flip for the Wildkittens as they tore up and down the court, playing like an entirely different team.
To their credit, Walker Valley didn’t let the swing in momentum kill their chances at a win, keeping up their offensive and defensive intensity.
However, with 21 ticks on the clock Wilson pulled up and hit a game-tying 3-point dagger to bring the Polk County fans to their feet.
Walker Valley had a chance to answer as the inbounds pass found its way to Jessica Stepp, who gained penetration and narrowly missed a game-winning bucket, forcing the game to overtime.
In the extra session Walker Valley jumped out to an early lead behind a bucket from Lindsey Sotuyo.
Polk answered with a basket of their own and then gained a 50-48 lead on a pair of Nattalie Miles free throws.
The Lady Mustangs again drove downcourt and hit another key bucket to knot the score at 50 with less than a minute to play.
An offensive turnover resulted when Polk next took possession, brining the energy in “The Stable” to heart-racing levels.
Walker Valley made its way down the court only to have a shot attempt tipped and taken away, but the Wildkittens were unable to capitalize when they were called for a walk.
Lady Mustang coach Jessica Stone quickly called a timeout with 28 seconds left in overtime to calm her team and draw up an inbound play.
Yet, when play resumed Polk’s Maclain Yowarsky pickpocketed the ball, completely reversing the game’s momentum.
As the final seconds quickly faded the ball found its way to Wilson, who penetrated to the basket and was fouled with less than a second left to play.
The electricity in Walker Valley’s gym was palpable as Wilson took the free throw line for her game-winning attempt.
Amid the cheers and screams of the crowd her fist shot banged out.
Wildkitten coach Johnny Hayes quickly called a timeout and brought his team to the bench to calm them down and allow Wilson a chance to focus.
When play resumed Wilson took the line once more. The noise level in the gym could have been heard from Benton.
She put the shot up. Despite the wishes and prayers of a Stable full of Mustang fans, the shot went in and the Polk fans exploded to their feet.
“Emily was hitting 3s early that kept us in the ball game. We would fall a little behind and she would hit a big shot to put us right back into it. And then, with the big 3 and free throw to win the game, you can’t ask for any more from a player,” Hayes said.
With six-tenths of a second left Walker Valley had no chance to get a solid shot attempt off the inbounds and the Wildkittens walked away with a 51-50 thriller.
“It’s really good for our girls to play in games like that. I saw a lot of improvement tonight. I couldn’t have asked them to play any harder than they did. It’s really important that our younger players are really stepping up and getting a feel for things,” stated Stone.
Wilson led Polk’s scoring with 30 points and seven boards. Miles pulled down nine rebounds and Morgan Greer had nine boards before leaving with a very costly injury.
According to Hays, Greer suffered an ankle injury late in the game. He is unsure of her status, but she appeared to be in a lot of pain and was carried to the bus postgame.
Lady Mustang scoring was led by Lindsey Macon who netted 15 for Walker Valley, and Sotuyo, who put 12 on the scoreboard.
Mustangs 56, Wildcats 37
The boys’ matchup featured its share of drama, as three of the four quarters were highlighted by buzzer-beating shots.
“We knew our key was to keep (Logan) Brewer from getting a whole lot of touches. We held him to single digit scoring. We knew we would give up a little to Evan Ball. He’s a good shooter and Alex Akins is so good at penetrating, but we felt the key was to slow down Brewer and I felt we did a good job on him,” explained Mustang head coach Bob Williams.
First quarter play seemed to set up a game that would be a down to the wire struggle, with six lead changes.
But, Caio Hysinger put an end to the back-and-forth when he shot a dagger of a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Walker Valley all the lead and momentum they would need.
It was a game of offensive runs in the second quarter as the Mustangs started things with a 6-2 burst before the Wildcats answered with six of their own to tie the game.
Walker Valley responded by notching seven unanswered points, highlighted by a miraculous 3-point heave by Tucker Godfrey, again at the buzzer.
The shot brought Walker Valley fans to their feet and sent the squad into the locker room with a ton of momentum and a 27-20 lead.
Even with all the momentum against them the Wildcats still fought on when play resumed and with the help of some key Evan Ball 3-pointers were able to hang in the game.
But once again, with time running down and Walker Valley with possession Jahmal Johnson gained penetration and lofted a floater over Polk’s Logan Brewer. Yet another Mustang shot that found its way in right before the buzzer sounded.
The Wildcats looked to make one last stand down by eight, but Walker Valley closed the door, going on a 15-2 run to end the game with a score of 56-37.
“We didn’t do a very good job on offense tonight and that dictated what we did on defense. We have got to execute better. Hats off to coach Williams. He really had them prepared for tonight. Hopefully we can put this behind us and get ready for a big game Friday night,” stated Polk head coach Rusty Brewer.
Johnson led Walker Valley scoring with 16, and Hysinger contributed 11.
Alex Akins notched 12 and Ball contributed 11 for Polk.
Next up, Walker Valley will play host to Rhea County for the Mustangs’ last regular season district game and senior night tonight.
Polk will be in action again Friday night as they look at their last district game against Sweetwater at home.
JV Mustangs 67,
Tucker Godfrey led the Walker Valley JV Mustangs scoring by netting 16 in the team’s game against Polk County.
Also for the Mustangs; Derice Anthony scored nine, Logan Melton six, Dustin Swafford six, Austin Harwood four, Sam Gregory two, Lukas Korn two, Colton Morrow five, Logan Russell nine, Jimmy Williams four and Bradley Franklin four.
The Wildcats were led by Docy Groomes with 11 points, Gage Locke with seven, Javan Simpson with six, Derrick Weber, Timmy Keith and Blake Cross all had two.
The JV Mustangs carry a record of 16-4 on the season.
Polk County 10 11 7 18 5 — 51
Walker Valley 11 12 13 10 4 — 50
Wildkittens (51) — Emily Wilson 30, Miles 4, Epperson 7, Greer 4, Yowarsky 6.
Lady Mustangs (50) — Lindsey Macon 15, Lindsey Sotuyo 12, Griffith 2, Watson 4, Lawhord 8, Stepp 6, Davis 3.
3-point Goals: Polk 5 (Wilson 5); Walker Valley 3 (Stepp 2, Davis).
Free Throws: Polk 10-of-15; Walker Valley 1-of-6.
Records: Polk 10-11; Walker Valley 8-15.
Polk County 12 8 11 6 — 37
Walker Valley 14 13 12 17 — 56
Wildcats (37) — Alex Akins 12, Evan Ball 11, Burger 2, Ragona 6, Brewer 9.
Mustangs (56) — Jahmal Johnson 16, Caio Hysinger 11, Godfrey 5, Cartwright 8, Morrow 8, Brownfield 6, Franklin 2.
3-point Goals: Polk 3 (Ball 3); Walker Valley 5 (Johnson 2, Godfrey, Hysinger, Morrow).
Free Throws: Polk 8-of-15; Walker Valley 5-of-8.
Records: Polk 11-12; Walker Valley 8-17.