Polk girls finish strong to pick up first win of the season

Bella Marino heads for the basket after one of her six steals in Tuesday's win over Highland Tech.

Amid the roller coaster ride that served as Polk County’s 55-49 win over Highland Tech on Tuesday, Wolverine head coach Brandy Alm offered a brief, but fiery halftime speech to her team.

The message? Limit the Rams’ offensive rebounds. Be more aggressive. Work harder.

The Wolverines did that and more in the second half, rallying from a 13-point deficit at the break to earn their first win of the season in a non-conference matchup at Polk.

Polk County (1-3) led by as many as nine early, fell behind at the half, then fought back to finally retake the lead in the final two and a half minutes of the game. The Wolverines then hit 7-of-8 free throws to seal the win.

“Coming out of the half, the biggest concern was eliminating their second chance opportunities,” Alm said. “They had 10 offensive rebounds the first half. In the second half they had four. That was huge for us.

“Our defensive intensity in the fourth quarter was awesome. Amazing. We came out in the second half with a little more desire and passion.”

Polk trimmed its halftime deficit to seven entering the final quarter, then scored the first six points of the fourth on an Ansley Lynch layup, two Autumn Owen free throws and an Owen basket to make it a one-point game with 4:53 remaining.

Highland Tech (4-2) clung to the lead until Sara Muse hit a short jumper and Kristen Hall followed with a layup to give the Wolverines a 48-47 edge with 2:26 left to play.

The Rams failed to score on their next possession, and soon began Polk’s repeated journeys to the foul line. Owen and Bella Marino combined to hit seven straight at the stripe, ensuring the Wolverines would celebrate their first victory.

“In the fourth quarter, we were ahead for the first time this year,” Alm said. “We were able to control the game, which was important for us, a learning experience. We had a lot of young girls who had their first experience with a close game.”

Owen had 23 points to lead Polk County, with Lynch adding a stellar evening of 12 points, 10 rebounds and six steals. Muse and Mariah Overholt each had six points, with Marino adding four points and six steals. Kendall Hall and Kristen Hall each scored two points for the Wolverines, who travel Wednesday to R-S Central.