Wolverines fight past Bethel to reach BRC championship game

Polk County Middle head girls basketball coach Brian Taylor talks with his team during the fourth quarter of Monday's game.

Before this season began, Polk County Middle girls basketball coach Brian Taylor offered a simple motto for the Wolverines to follow.

One Team, One Goal, the goal being a Blue Ridge Conference championship.

Polk Middle now just needs One Win to make that target a reality.

The Wolverines outlasted Bethel Middle 29-26 Monday in the semifinals of the BRC basketball tournament, delighting a home crowd with a victory in a nailbiter in which neither team ever led by more than five points.

Polk Middle (12-2) will travel to Macon Middle for Wednesday’s championship game. That game will be played at 4:30 p.m. The two teams met in the first game of the season, also at Macon, with the Panthers winning.

The Wolverines took the lead in Monday’s intense back-and-forth thriller late in the second quarter and never gave it up, though Bethel (10-4) made Polk County work for every point.

The Blue Demons trailed by four entering the fourth quarter, but Ashtyn Frady drilled a long 3-pointer to make it a 22-21 Polk lead with 5:03 left. The Wolverines still led by one when Polk’s Sara Wilson and DeAsia Green hit back-to-back baskets to make it 28-23 with 1:19 remaining.

Bethel, though, pulled with two at 28-26 with 15 seconds left and had possession of the ball with 11 seconds remaining, but a turnover while in transition squelched that threat. Polk’s Olivia Overholt hit one of two free throws with five seconds remaining, and Bethel’s last-second desperation 3-pointer sailed wide.

“We stayed composed at the end,” Taylor said. “They were very aggressive and very handsy and a very fine team. They were well coached.

“We didn’t get the ball inside like I wanted. We didn’t get a lot of easy buckets. But everybody played well and I’m proud of how everybody played defense.”

Frady and Overholt waged a shootout in the first period, with Frady burying two 3-pointers and Overholt hitting three jumpers, all in a span of 58 seconds, as the teams ended the quarter in a 9-9 deadlock.

Bethel took a 13-9 lead early in the second period, but Tori Thompson hit a 3-pointer from the wing, then added a free throw moments later to tie the game. Overholt, battling a box-and-one defense most of the game, added three more free throws in the final minute to give Polk County a 16-13 halftine lead.

Lauren Dotson opened the second half with a rebound and basket to give Polk its biggest lead, 18-13. The Wolverines kept the lead at five until a late Bethel free throw made it 22-18 entering the fourth quarter.

Overholt finished with 17 points, with Thompson adding six. Dotson, Green and Wilson each finished with two.

“It was another close ball game that we found a way to win,” Taylor said. “That’s a credit to the girls for never giving up.”