It’s not time just yet to hang a girls basketball division championship banner in Polk County Middle’s gym.
But in the wake of Tuesday’s win over Rugby Middle, school officials should start looking for space.
The Wolverines used a dominant defensive effort to hand Rugby a 26-17 setback, giving Polk Middle a two-game lead in the Blue Ridge Conference’s East Division with three games remaining.
Polk Middle (7-2, 7-0) built an early lead and never trailed the rest of the way, keeping Rugby from generating any sustained offensive momentum the entire game. The win completed a season sweep of Rugby (5-4, 5-2) for the Wolverines.
“That separated us from the rest of the group,” said Polk Middle head coach Brian Taylor. “We’re two games ahead of Rugby with three games left and we’ve beaten them twice. It’s ours for the taking.”
The Wolverines looked early to established Lauren Dotson’s presence in the post, that strategy helping the Wolverines build a 14-6 lead midway through the second period. Dotson got into foul trouble, but Polk still took an 18-9 lead at the half, with Sara Wilson hitting a 15-foot jumper just before the buzzer.
Rugby cut Polk Middle’s lead to five early in the third period and had possession with a chance to draw closer, but Tori Thompson picked off a Raider pass, drove the length of the court and drew a foul. Thompson hit both free throws to give Polk a 20-13 lead. Dotson and Caroline Taylor followed with baskets to give the Wolverines a 24-13 lead late in the third.
Rugby got no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
“We wanted to try to get the ball into Lauren. She had a mismatch with her height and we wanted to score from the post,” Taylor said. “Once she got into foul trouble, we had to turn to our guards. The whole team stepped up. I think we shot well.
“We did a good job defensively containing them. We blocked out and rebounded well and limited their second shots. Olivia (Overholt) came through on defense with some blocks and DeAsia Green did well defensively.”
Overholt scored 11 points to lead Polk Middle, with Dotson scoring six and Wilson adding four. Thompson finished with three points and effectively handled Rugby’s defensive pressure at point guard, with Taylor adding two.
The Wolverines can officially clinch the East Division title on Monday with a win at Apple Valley.