With head coach Antoni Staley sidelined by the flu, Polk County’s boys basketball team wanted nothing more than a win Wednesday to help their missing coach feel better.
The Wolverines certainly had a shot at that coveted victory, too, until a late scoring drought helped Owen pull away for a 79-62 victory in a Western Highlands Conference meeting at Polk.
The Wolverines (2-16, 0-7) were ultimately undone by two stretches, one in each half, where points were at a premium, the most costly of those coming late in the third period.
Polk County steadily whittled away Owen’s nine-point halftime lead during the third quarter, finally evening the game at 44-44 on a Jason Fox free throw with 2:02 left in the third.
But the Wolverines wouldn’t score again until the 6:13 mark of the fourth quarter, by which team Owen (2-18, 2-4) had reeled off 13 straight points for a 57-44 lead.
Polk County got the deficit back to nine as Clark Phipps scored on a three-point play and Sedric Pickett hit a 3-pointer to make it 59-51, but that would be as close as Polk would get, with Owen pulling away in the waning minutes.
“We couldn’t get anything to fall,” said Polk assistant coach Brad Muse, who directed the team in Staley’s absence. “The kids had been in there in a while (late in the third period) and I wanted to substitute, but the chemistry we had with that group was good, so I kept them in there.
“When we started running and moving fast, we started making mistakes. When we slowed down and ran our offense, we made some good decisions. We really wanted to win this game for Coach Staley.”
A back-and-forth first half tilted Owen’s way during the second period, when the Warhorses snapped a 20-20 tie with 10 straight points. Owen pushed its advantage to 14, but Peyton Dill hit a 3-pointer and Pickett added a layup just before the half to make it 36-27 at the break.
Phipps finished with 19 points to lead Polk County, with Fox adding 15. Dill finished with nine points, with Pickett adding seven and Markell Lipscomb and Javontae Miller each scoring six.
“Elijah Sutton dominated the boards,” Muse said. “Tae Miller and Sedric Pickett really stepped up at the guard position. Peyton Dill stepped up. We had a lot of people contribute, we just fell a little short.”
Polk County will celebrate Senior Night on Thursday during its regular-season home finale against Mountain Heritage.