There were no broken hearts to be seen on Polk County’s side of the court Friday night as both teams did what needed to be done to ensure they will play in at least three more games in the postseason.
While the Wildkittens were able to take a strong lead over the Lady Wildcats in the second half, it took the Wildcats until the final three seconds of the game to steal away the win from Sweetwater.
“It’s not an excuse, but we were out of the gym for a bit thanks to the weather and that showed early. We just didn’t play well early, but we kept battling and chipping away at it. We made the plays down the stretch when we had to,” Polk County head coach Rusty Brewer stated. “We’ve played 27 ball games and it all came down to tonight. The kids stepped up when they needed to.”
In the first quarter, Sweetwater outscored Polk 16-6, setting an ominous tone for the Valentine’s Day game.
Cody Groomes was able to swing some of the momentum Polk’s way at the start of the second quarter by sinking two 3-pointers just one minute apart.
A bucket from Blake Cross and a pair of free throws from Chris Wimberley made it so that the Wildcats only trailed Sweetwater by two points, 18-16 with one minute left in the half.
In what was just a preview of things to come, Wimberley netted two more points in the last 30 seconds of the second. Polk County entered halftime only four points behind Sweetwater.
The second half kicked off a game of back and forth, as the Wildcats chased down Sweetwater to a one-point deficit.
Devin Weber’s 3-point bomb with 2:22 remaining in the third quarter gave Polk their first lead of the night, as they jumped ahead of Sweetwater 29-27.
The Wildcats were able to hold off the Wildcats of Monroe County for the final two minutes of the third, and carried their two point lead over into the fourth quarter.
Sweetwater tied things up 29-all only 45 seconds into the final eight minutes of play, and was able to take a one-point lead a minute later thanks to a point from the charity stripe.
A basket from Weber switched up the one-point lead, but back- to-back fouls on the “Big Red” resulted in a 34-31 lead for Sweetwater.
With just under two and a half minutes left in the game, Polk County was trailing 42-36.
“Usually against this bunch we’ve started slow and come on late and dug ourselves such a big hole that we’re not able to come out,” Brewer said. “Luckily tonight we were able to get out of it. I’m very proud of them.”
Groomes and Weber were able to reduce the deficit to just two points in the next minute, and then a trip to the free throw line by Groomes brought the game back to just a point difference between the teams.
The Wildcats were down 46-45 when Weber made one final trip to the charity strip with just 3.2 seconds left on the clock.
His attempt to tie things up with a free throw was unsuccessful, but Wimberley’s free throw box out in those final seconds gave the boys from Polk County a 47-46 victory.
“It was amazing. We’ve missed free throw box outs probably 15 times this year, and then it comes down to us making one on the right side,” Brewer proclaimed. “It was an amazing effort and now we get to play three more games, which is what we wanted.”
Groomes racked up 22 points in Friday night’s game.
The Wildcats took on District 5-AA No. 1 seed McMinn Central Saturday afternoon and were defeated 70-34.
The Chargers took an early 17-8 lead to end the first quarter.
Polk was able to closely follow Central in scoring in the second quarter, only being outscored 14-13.
With a 54-30 lead to start off the second half, the Chargers held the Wildcats to just nine points, while adding 23 more points to their own score.
Things ended on a sour note for Polk County, which was outscored by Central 16-4 in the final eight minutes of play.
The Wildcats will face Loudon on Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the District 5-AA consolation game.
The Redskins lost to Sequoyah 70-34 on Saturday.
The Chargers will take on the Chiefs for the district championship at 7:30 on Tuesday.
LADY WILDCATS 36
Things started out on a sour note for the Wildkittens Friday, as the No. 5 seeded Lady Wildcats were able to outscore the No. 4 seed 11-4 in the first quarter.
The Polk girls were able to start turning things around in the second, and scored 14 points to Sweetwater’s nine.
The Lady Wildcats started out the third quarter with a 20-18 lead, but the Wildkittens offensive and defensive efforts in the second half clawed apart the Sweetwater team.
“We came out and were a little more aggressive in the full court defense and even in the half which kind of helped as well. We got a couple quick shots that kick started our momentum,” Polk head coach Johnny Hayes explained.
After adding a point from the free throw line, Sweetwater was unable to hold off the Wildkittens from a 10 point, two-minute run.
Polk ultimately held the Lady Wildcats to just six points in the third quarter, while scoring 18 points of their own.
The Wildkittens’ offensive efforts only increased further in the final quarter, as they finished off their competition with 20 points while allowing Sweetwater only 10 more points.
Isabella Liner racked up 28 points in the 20 point Wildkittens’ victory, with 18 of those coming in the final 16 minutes of the game.
“She came alive for us and that set the tone later in the game,” Hayes commented.
While the Wildkittens offense sprang to life on Valentine’s Day, it fell flat against the Chargerettes in the semi-finals on Saturday evening.
Central held Polk scoreless in the first quarter and was able to net 17 points of their own.
In the second quarter the Wildkittens were outscored by 10 points, 16-6.
Polks’ offensive struggles were once again highlighted in the third quarter, as the Chargerettes outscored them 12-3.
Trailing 45-9 going into the fourth quarter, the Wildkittens were able to finish out the game with 10 more points, while Central finished with 10 more points as well giving them a 55-19 win.
The Wildkittens will face Sequoyah on Monday at 6 p.m. in the third place game.
The Lady Chiefs were narrowly defeated by Loudon 49-48 on Saturday.
The Lady Redskins will battle the Chargerettes on Tuesday at 6 p.m. for the District 5-AA girls’ championship.
Sweetwater 11 9 6 10 — 36
Polk County 4 14 18 20 — 56
LADY WILDCATS (36) Rasmussen 11, Mashburn 10, McNabb 7, Davidson 4, Ervin 2, Duprey 2, Bloomer, Singer, Fairbank.
WILDKITTENS (56) Isabella Liner 28, Hannah Withrow 11, Waldroup 8, McClary 6, Johnson 2, McLain 1, Davis, Trew, Muller.
3-POINTERS: S 2 (McNabb, Davidson); PC 4 (Liner 4)
Polk County 6 12 11 18 — 47
Sweetwater 16 6 5 19 — 46
POLK (47) Cody Groomes 22, Weber 9, Wimberley 6, Cross 6, Locke 2, Coffey 2, Sipe, Frerichs, Richmond.
SWEETWATER (46) Johnson 21, Stiles 11, A. Thaxton 8, T. Hill 3, Allen 2, C. Hill 1, D. Thaxton, Turpinen.
3-POINTERS: PC 3 (Groomes 2, Weber); S 3 (A. Thaxton 2, Johnson)
Polk County 0 6 3 10 — 19
McMinn Central 17 16 12 10 — 55
WILDKITTENS (19) Muller 8, Liner 4, Withrow 4, McClary 3.
CHARGERETTES (55) Jacobi Lynn 22, Williams 7, Coleman 6, Trentham 5, Wampler 4, Atleins 4, Stillwell 4, Cherry 2, Plaster 1, Martin, Truelove, Casteel..
3-POINTERS: PC 0; MC 6 (Lynn 5, Williams).
Polk County 8 13 9 4 — 34
McMinn Central 17 14 23 16 — 70
WILDCATS (34) Cody Groomes 14, Richmond 8, Locke 4, Wimberley 4, Cross 4, Sipe, Ownbey, Coffey, Frerichs, Weber.
CHARGERS (70) Josh Scudder 29. Skyler Farrar 18, Davis 5, Boyd 5, Williams 3, Knight 2, Bull 2, Guy 2, Kay 1, Miller 1, Brooks.
3-POINTERS: PC 3 (Richmond 2, Groomes); MC 8 (Farrar 4, Scudder 4)