For the Wildkittens, that win took an extra four minutes of overtime before they overcame the Lady Indians 41-31.
After scoring only five points in the first quarter, Polk County was able to tie things up with Murray County 13-13 in the second quarter.
It was Isabella Liner’s 3-pointer at the end of the first that Hayes felt kept his team in the game.
“It was close for a long while. The first quarter was kind of a make or break for us. If we didn’t hit that 3 there late in the first, we might not have been in the ballgame to start with,” Wildkitten head coach Johnny Hayes stated.
Both teams went on to score six points a piece in the third quarter, and then kept things all tied up with nine more points each in the fourth quarter.
The four-minute overtime is where the Wildkittens were able to claw their way past the Lady Indians, outscoring them by 10 points to get the win.
“As the game went on I felt that we started to defend better and we also had some younger girls come off the bench and give us some good minutes, so I hope that continues,” Hayes commented.
The Polk County girls were 21-for-30 from the free-throw line Thursday night, with 11 of their 13 points in OT coming from foul shots.
“We made some foul shots down the stretch, which ... is what you have to do in a close game in the end,” Hayes explained.
The Lady Indians were only 10-for-26 from the free-throw line.
Liner finished the night with 10 points and two 3-pointers and was also perfect from the free-throw line, going 4-for-4.
Both MiKayla McClary and Hannah Withrow had nine points.
Felecia Johnson was perfect from the free-throw line, going 6-for-6.
According to coach Hayes, the Wildkittens need to work on keeping their turnovers to a minimum.
“Turnovers are hurting us at the moment. This is the second game we’ve played where we’ve had a lot of turnovers and we have to start overcoming that pressure and making some shots. We’ve had some easy baskets, we’re just not putting them in,” Hayes said.
WILDCATS 49, INDIANS 27
The Wildcats were able to turn their fortunes with a decisive 22-point victory over Murray County.
“We got a good win tonight. We had a bad taste in our mouth after Tuesday night in Tellico and the kids came out tonight, responded and played well,” Polk County head coach Rusty Brewer said. “We shot the ball well and I’m very proud of the defense. The defensive intensity was really turned up tonight, and I think that was the key to a good start.”
The Polk County boys took the lead early, scoring 18 points to the Indians’ six points in the first quarter.
Cody Groomes led the charge, hitting three treys early on, with Gage Locke adding a 3-pointer of his own.
The Wildcats never gave Murray County a chance to catch up for the rest of the game, and had a 26-13 lead over the visitors going into the half.
The good times kept on rolling as Polk County scored 23 more points to the Indians’ 14 points in the second half.
Groomes finished out the game with 16 points and hit a total of four 3-pointers.
Locke had 15 points and was 6-for-7 at the free-throw line.
“We’ve got to have Cody step up and score, and Gage has got to step up and score from the perimeter,” Brewer stated. “We were able to do that early and knock some shots down. We knew that they were going to a match-up zone, and we did a good job of ball movement and found those guys for the shots.”
Much like the Wildkitten coach, Brewer is also concerned with the turnovers his team allows.
“We can’t turn the ball over. The unforced turnovers are the ones that bother me,” Brewer declared.
The Wildcats are without three of their players due to the football playoffs. Senior Devin Weber, who was injured in the first round of the playoffs, is expected to be able to play in six to eight weeks.
“We’re missing a few football guys. We’ve got some new faces on the team, so we have to get those guys working at a consistent level,” Brewer explained.
Polk County will host Coahulla Creek this next Tuesday with the Wildkittens getting things started at 6 p.m.
Murray County 10 3 6 9 3— 31
Polk County 5 8 6 9 13— 41
LADY INDIANS (31) — Caitlyn Sims 11, Holly Stanfield 9, McKenzie Carroll 4, Kailey Webb, Shea Pendley 2, Catlyn Richardson 2, Lilly Harris, Anniston Long, Ashley Harrison, Greta Lazzarotto, Alex Johnson, Chloe Brown.
WILDKITTENS (41) — Isabella Liner 10, MiKayla McClary 9, Hannah Withrow 9, Felecia Johnson 6, Shakori Pirkle 5, Whitney Hutcheson 2, Maeson Stewart, Shelby Lillard, Angel Davis, Heather McLain.
3-POINTERS: Murray County 1 (Stanfield); Polk County 2 (Liner).
FREE THROWS: Murray County 10-of-26; Polk County 21-of-30.
RECORDS: Polk County 1-1
Murray County 6 7 6 8 — 27
Polk County 18 8 9 14 — 49
INDIANS (27) — Alex Hicks 5, Nick Stiles 5, Cesar Romero 5, Wyatt Stuckey 5, Hunter Ary 4, Jagger Gladers 3, Tucker Humble, Jordan Jackson, Petee Walden, Same Lanier, Logan Buckferd, Andrew Carroll, Noah Price, David Bennett, Alex Youngquist.
WILDCATS (49) — Cody Groomes 16, Gage Locke 15, Nick Sipe 4, Nathan Rogers 4, Bryce Coffey 4, Hunter Ownbey 3, Will Richmond 3, Colby Frerichs 2.
3-POINTERS: Murray County 3 (Hicks, Gladers, Stiles); Polk County 7 (Groomes 4, Locke, Ownbey, Richmond).
FREE THROWS: Murray County 4-of-9; Polk County 12-of-15.
RECORDS: Polk County 1-1.