ATHENS — Both Polk County basketball squads found success in the opening round of the District 5-AA Tournament as they played familiar Sweetwater teams Thursday night.
The battle of the Wildcats proved to be a close one as Polk County (7-21) was able to pull out a 48-42 victory over Sweetwater (5-23). The Wildkittens (6-20), on the other hand, easily overcame the Lady Wildcats (1-27) by 32 points with a final score of 52-20.
Having just beaten the Lady Wildcats only a week ago, Polk County head coach Johnny Hayes had to be sure that his team had their wits about them going into the game.
“Sometimes if you just played them, you’ve got to wonder where the girls’ minds are at. You’ve got to make sure that you’re still sharp and doing things you’re supposed to do and not falling asleep.”
By the end of the first period, it was evident that the Wildkittens were focused on getting another win as they led the Lady Wildcats 16-8.
Emily Wilson racked up 11 of her 13 game points in the first period alone. Wilson was able to net one more basket early in the second period before rolling a previously injured ankle and spending the remainder of the game on the bench. Hayes believes Wilson will be back in action tonight.
Despite losing their leading scorer early on in the game, the Polk County girls rose to the occasion and were able to dominate the rest of the game both offensively and defensively.
Sweetwater was only able to net one sole basket in the second period.
The domination over the Lady Wildcats was carried over into the second half, as once again Sweetwater was only able to net one more basket in the third period.
Efforts by Rachel Epperson, with 11 points, and Riley Hatcher, with 9, helped keep the Wildkittens on a winning path.
“I thought we boxed out pretty well and we were aggressive on the defensive end, getting on the floor for loose balls, being very aggressive and making sure we secured rebounds after shots went up. I think that was the difference in the game for us,” Hayes said of Thursday’s game.
Polk County was impressive when it came to rebounds, with a total of 29. The Wildkittens were able to steal the ball away from the Lady Wildcats 10 times and only had seven turnovers.
With a final score of 52-20, Polk County has little time to celebrate their first-round tournament win. The Wildkittens will be put to the test in a quick turnaround game as they play the top ranked McMinn Central Lady Chargers tonight at 7:30 p.m.
POLK COUNTY 48,
The rematch between Polk County and Sweetwater boys took a different tone Thursday night as Sweetwater was able to start off the game strong.
It took Polk County around four minutes to even get on the board, while Sweetwater was already up by eight points. By the end of the first period, Sweetwater led Polk County 16-13.
“It started out a little slow. We were without Derrick (Weber) tonight with a toe injury and I liked the way the kids responded,” head coach Rusty Brewer said. “After the first four minutes we knocked some shots down to really come on and after that we felt like we could do it. We had the confidence and continued to fight and were able to get us one.”
The tide would change in favor of Polk in the second period, as it was able to take the lead, 28-22.
Sweetwater continued to battle hard, and by the end of the third period was only trailing Polk by seven points, 38-31.
“It’s that understanding that it’s now or never. We had to do it, or you’re done for the season, so the kids stepped up and got it done,” Brewer stated.
All of Polk County’s final 10 points came from free throws in the fourth period, as they went 10-for-13 at the charity stripe. Sweetwater was able to net three 3-pointers and a couple of free throws of their own, but it wasn’t enough to reclaim a lead.
With a final score of 48-42, the Polk County Wildcats overcame the Sweetwater Wildcats and now advance to play McMinn Central tonight at 9 p.m.
Evan Ball, Cody Groomes, and Will Richmond came up big for Polk County, with all three netting 13 points apiece. Devin Weber had eight rebounds and Groomes had five rebounds. Both Chandler Hutcheson and Ball had five assists during the game.
Thanks to this win, Polk County will now play another week of basketball, going into the regionals.
“Its awesome, it gives us another ... week,” Brewer explained.
Polk County 16 9 17 10 — 52
Sweetwater 8 2 2 8 — 20
WILDKITTENS (52) — Emily Wilson 13, Rachel Epperson 11, Hatcher 9, Liner 7, McLain 4, Haynes 4, Lillard 2, McClary 2, Johnson, Stewart, Withrow, Hutcheson.
LADY WILDCATS (20) — Mashburn 9, Thomasson 4, McNabb 3, Green 2, Rosmussen 2, St. Hilare, Hurst, Fairbank, Gennoe, Duprey, Ervin.
3-point goals: Polk 2 (Wilson, Liner); Sweetwater 2 (Mashburn, McNabb).
Free throws: Polk 12-of-22; Sweetwater 0-of-7.
Records: Polk County 6-20; Sweetwater 1-27,
Polk County 13 15 10 10 — 48
Sweetwater 16 6 9 11 — 42
POLK COUNTY (48) — Evan Ball 13, Cody Groomes 13, Will Richmond 13, Dev. Weber 5, Hutcheson 4, Locke, Coffey, Keith, Cross.
SWEETWATER (40) — Brandon Clark 15, Seth Battle 11, Watson 7, Wicker 3, Spencer 3, Davis 2, Barr 1, MaCgauchey, Thaxton, Hernandez, Johnson, Allen, T. Hill, C. Hill
3-point goals: Polk 4 (Richmond 3, Ball); Sweetwater 5 (Battle 2, Clark, Wicker, Watson).
Free throws: Polk 14-of-17; Sweetwater 8-of-17.
Records: Polk County 7-21; Sweetwater 5-23.