Lemont Jones saw plenty of signs of promise in his first game as Polk County’s head boys basketball coach.
One thing he didn’t see had the veteran coach shaking his head after his debut.
Highland Tech controlled the boards on both ends Tuesday, helping pave the way for the Rams to take a 73-63 win over the Wolverines at Polk.
The Wolverines fell behind in the first period and spent the rest of the evening fighting to catch up, making a pair of second-half runs to trim a halftime deficit of 11 points to as little as six in the fourth quarter.
But Highland Tech (2-0) often found the answer to thwart Polk County inside, working its height advantage for second-chance baskets.
“We hustled and fought back twice, cut it to six or seven,” Jones said. “We just couldn’t hit the shot we needed.
“We’re not really big. We’ve got five coming out from football and that will be some beef. Those are going to be our rebounders.”
Polk County trailed by 17 at one point early in the third quarter, but the Wolverines steadily sliced Highland Tech’s lead and closed to 53-46 late in the period on a Clark Phipps 3-pointer.
A 3-pointer by Amir Gary and a Qualon Sutton basket helped the Wolverines make it a six-point game, 68-62, with 3:07 left in the fourth. But Highland Tech closed with a 5-1 run over the final three minutes to seal the win.
“We’ve got some work to do,” Jones said. “But the games really don’t count until January (the start of conference play). We’ve got a lot of chances to get better.”
Phipps finished with 23 points to lead Polk County, with Gary adding 16 and Dominique Carson scoring 12 in his high school debut.
Sutton added six points, with Javantae Miller scoring four and Keyandre Thomas adding two.
Highland Tech’s Kobe Christian finished with a game-high 24 points to lead the Rams.