Polk County Middle’s Blue Ridge Conference tournament opener Thursday against Canton Middle felt at times like a wild see-saw ride.
Down, up, down, up.
Up proved the best place to be.
The Wolverines pulled away in the fourth quarter to hand the Bears a 36-25 setback in BRC first-round action at Polk Middle.
Next up for Polk Middle (11-2) will be a semifinal game Monday at home against Bethel, which defeated Rugby 31-14 in its first-round game.
The Wolverines fell behind early, rallied with a huge second quarter for a seven-point halftime lead, then saw that margin dwindle to nothing early in the final quarter as Canton (6-6) tied the game at 20-20 with 4:41 remaining.
But Tori Thompson drained a 3-pointer from the corner just in front of Polk’s bench to give the Wolverines the lead, DeAsia Green rebounded a Polk miss and scored and Thompson connected on a fast-break layup to give the Wolverines a 27-20 advantage.
Thompson then stole a Canton pass, drew a foul and hit one of two free throws to give the Wolverines a 28-20 advantage with three minutes remaining.
Canton got no closer than six points the rest of the way as Olivia Overholt hit six straight free throws and Thompson added two more to close out the game.
“Our free-throw shooting was big,” said Polk Middle head coach Brian Taylor. “That was a good team. We were worried about their height inside and their aggressive defense.
“But the girls maintained their composure and didn’t get frazzled. I’m proud of them. They played well.”
Canton’s aggressiveness paid off early, the Bears racing to a 9-2 lead late in the first quarter before Overholt hit a free throw to make it 9-3 at quarter’s end.
With the Bears double-teaming Overholt, Polk’s leading scorer, the Wolverines needed to find a source of offense – and Sara Wilson delivered.
The Polk Middle forward hit four straight baskets, then followed a Thompson fast-break layup with another basket to give Polk Middle an 18-9 lead. Wilson also grabbed several rebounds on the defensive end as Canton managed just two points in the quarter, allowing Polk to take an 18-11 edge at the break.
“We needed some people to step up, and Sara Wilson stepped up big for us,” Taylor said. “That’s probably the most she’s scored this year and she did it in a single quarter.”
But Canton fought back in the third period, making it an 18-18 game before Overholt hit a 16-foot jumper with 40 seconds left in the period to give Polk the lead entering the final quarter.
Thompson had 12 points to lead Polk Middle, with Overholt and Wilson each scoring 10 and Green adding four points.
“We played really good defense,” Taylor said. “We stayed with our game plan and we came out with a win.”