“We had our chances, but wasted some possessions,” declared coach Rusty Brewer after his Wildcats were nipped by a 10-1 Gilmer County (Ga.) team 48-47. “We’ve got to take advantage of the opportunities we’re given. We came back at the end, but we fell short.”
Polk girls coach Johnny Hayes echoed the sentiment after the Wildkittens fell 39-29 to the much-taller host North Murray (Ga.) squad.
“We got down, then were able to come back, but then we started turning the ball over and couldn’t get a bucket when we were able to get off a shot at the end,” he said after watching his team rally from a double-digit second-half deficit to within a point of the lead before not hitting a shot from the field in the final 7:50 of the game.
Both Polk teams will return to Chatsworth, Ga., Saturday for consolation games, but the times and opponents are still yet to be determined.
The Wildcats put the first points on the board Thursday evening when Devin Weber drained a 3-pointer on the game’s opening shot. Polk led by four points on three different occasions in the opening frame.
The Bobcats were able to put on a 6-0 run in the final 90 seconds of the opening period to go up by two, which was trimmed to a single point when Weber hit a free throw with 20 ticks left.
Senior Evan Ball drained a trey of his own to open the second period and vault Polk back on top, but the lead would change hands six more times before the Wildcats held a 27-26 edge at the intermission.
The seesaw action continued when the teams retook the court with five more lead changes in the third quarter before the score stood even at 38-all heading into the final eight minutes.
Once again Polk opened a frame with a 3-ball, this one coming from Cody Groomes.
After missing their first three shots in the final period, Gilmer County took advantage of back-to-back Wildcat turnovers to spark a 10-2 run and take the lead for good.
Down by a half dozen points with just over a minute to go, Polk snapped a streak of five straight misses when Ball copped a steal and drove coast-to-coast with 50 ticks on the clock.
With the Bobcats not converting from the free-throw line in the waning seconds, Polk had hope, but one 3-point attempt was off the mark before Ball was able to connect from downtown with 1.2 on the clock to close the gap to one before the time ran out.
Ball finished with 21 points, including four treys, while Weber added eight points and cleaned the glass for seven rebounds.
Groomes collected seven points and Derrick Weber a half dozen for Polk, the latter also grabbing seven rebounds and a pair of steals.
The Wildcats put up 50 shots from the floor, half coming from each side of the arc, connecting on 11 from close range and seven from distance.
Gilmer County was 19-of-47 from the field, making just three from beyond the 19-foot mark.
Lady Mountaineers 39,
After seven lead changes in the first 12 minutes, North Murray scored the final nine points of the opening half for a 20-15 lead at mid-break.
The hosts stretched their advantage to double digits with an 8-3 run to open the third quarter, but Polk shut them down completely in the final two minutes and fought back to close the gap to just three when the buzzer sounded.
When Emily Wilson nailed a baseline jumper 10 seconds into the final period, the Wildkittens were within a point of the lead, but that would turn out to be their final field goal of the evening.
With five turnovers and missing the front end of a pair of one-and-one free throws, Polk got off just three field goals in 7 1/2 minutes, none of which found its mark.
A pair of Makayla McClary free throws at the 3:58 mark would be the final Polk points of the contest, while the Lady Mountaineers were able to pump in 11 points to push the difference back to double digits by the final horn.
“You’re not going to win games scoring just 29 points,” lamented coach Hayes. “We got a little careless with some of our passes in the fourth quarter and we couldn’t get our shots off.”
Wilson drained a trio of 3-pointers on her way to a game-high 13 points before injuring her ankle and sitting out the final three minutes. She also pulled down five rebounds.
Rosa Haynes helped out with eight points and a half dozen caroms, while Riley Hatcher garnered four steals, four rebounds and four assists for the Wildkittens.
Despite having four players over 6 feet tall, North Murray only won the rebounding battle by two (24-22) and didn’t have even one player score in double figures.
Both teams were 3-of-14 from long range and both put up 27 two-point shots; the hosts made 14, while Polk netted just eight.
Kara Deal drained a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to spark North Murray’s final push. She led her team with nine points.
Polk County 10 5 10 4 — 29
North Murray 11 9 8 11 — 39
WILDKITTENS (29) — Emily Wilson 13, Haynes 8, McClary 4, Epperson 3, Hatcher 1.
LADY MOUNTAINEERS (39) — Kara Deal 9, Bradley 7, Robinson 6, Phillips 6, Spivey 5, Pittman 2, Hensley 2, Thomas 2, Ray.
3-pointers: Polk 3 (Wilson 3); North Murray 3 (Deal 2, Bradley).
Free throws: Polk 4-of-10; North Murray 2-of-5.
Records: Polk 2-9.
Gilmer County 14 12 12 10 — 48
Polk County 13 14 11 9 — 47
BOBCATS (48) — Jim Bob Charles 17, Waters 9, Reece 8, Hedden 6, Marshall 4, Lankey 4.
WILDCATS (47) — Evan Ball 21, Devin Weber 8, Groomes 7, Derrick Weber 6, Hutcheson 3, Gage 2, Richmond.
3-pointers: Gilmer 3 (Charles 3); Polk 7 (Ball 4, Groomes, Hutcheson, Devin Weber).
Free throws: Gilmer 7-of-13; Polk 4-of-6.
Records: Gilmer County 10-1; Polk County 3-9.