No wild celebration. No frenzied shouting.
Polk County Middle acted Thursday as if its first win in almost two years was just routine – albeit with a sense of relief.
The Wolverines put together a determined and dominant second half, pulling away to defeat Apple Valley 41-26 in a Blue Ridge Conference East Division matchup at Polk.
A Polk Middle boys team last won on Jan. 7, 2022 – also against Apple Valley. Most of the current Wolverines were not around for the final four games of the 2021-22 season, but many were present for last year’s 0-12 mark.
Toss in the 0-2 start this season and the Polk streak had reached 18 games. All of that ended Thursday with a solid performance that saw the Wolverines outscore the Knights 27-6 in the second half.
“We told them that in the second half, we had to come out the first three minutes of the quarter and we had to win those, we had to be aggressive, get to the basket, show our size and let it take over,” said Polk Middle head coach Brad Muse. “That’s what they did.
“It feels good after a year and a half.”
A pair of 3-pointers from Hollis Williams in the second quarter helped the Wolverines stay within striking distance at the half, trailing 20-14. Williams finished with a team-high 16 points and also led Polk’s second-half defensive effort against the Knights’ Cole Huntley, who had 12 points in the first half, but just four in the second.
“They were trying to pull our guards out, and then they would set that screen and we fell for it every time,” Muse said. “In the second half we just stayed back and let him come to us and we did a better job with that. Hollis did a good job with his speed.”
Polk Middle’s second-half surge began as Luke Garrison grabbed a rebound and scored, Dallas Littlejohn scored on a layup and Nate Fagan hit a free throw to make it 20-19. Garrison then gave Polk a lead it wouldn’t lose with another rebound and follow for a 21-20 edge.
A big Kevan Simpson rebound following a missed free throw led to a Littlejohn basket that put Polk up 23-20 entering the final quarter.
Simpson scored the first three points of the final quarter and Williams hit two free throws to give the Wolverines a 28-20 lead with 5:10 remaining. A technical on the Polk bench for too many coaches standing at once ended the Wolverine run, but Ross Dow followed the two Apple Valley free throws with a short jumper and Williams hit another 3-pointer to push Polk’s lead to 33-22 with 3:55 to go.
The Knights got no closer than nine the rest of the way.
“Luke is our silent leader, and he took control and had those two baskets for us at the start of the second half,” Muse said. “I didn’t get as many guys in as I wanted, but the ones that we did, they did the job.”
Garrison added eight points, with Littlejohn scoring seven. Simpson finished with five, with Dow adding four and Brody Wilkins scoring two and Fagan adding one.
Polk Middle returns to the court Monday, traveling to Hendersonville Middle.