HENDERSONVILLE – Midway through the second quarter of Friday’s fifth place game at the Knights Christmas Tournament, Polk County had a 10-point lead, momentum and perhaps thoughts of a two-game winning streak heading into 2017.
By the midpoint of the third period, two Mitchell scoring spurts left the Mountaineers with a 10-point edge of their own and the Wolverines looking for a similar rally – which unfortunately never materialized.
Mitchell’s 26-6 run during roughly an eight-minute span ultimately proved the deciding factor, allowing the Mountaineers to take a 66-54 victory over Polk County on the final day of tournament play at Tom Pryor Gym.
There were a lot of good things for the Wolverines (2-9) to take from the three days of play at North Henderson. Sophomore Clark Phipps had a team-high 16 points Friday and finished the tourney with 56, showing potential as a scoring threat. Marquise Lipscomb and Qualon Sutton moved up from the junior varsity and flashed signs of being key contributors. Holden Owens returned from an ankle injury and Jaymes Wingo was also back on the court Friday after missing several games.
All of those players had a hand in helping Polk build a 28-18 lead with 4:29 left in the second period, Owens hitting a 3-pointer to put the Wolverines up by 10. But Mitchell (4-7) began to exploit Polk’s man-to-man defense with screens away from the ball leading to layups or fouls, and that plus pressure defense that forced a handful of Wolverine turnovers led to a 11-0 Mitchell run that helped put the Mountaineers up 31-30 at the half.
Wyatt Derkach’s basket at the 6:15 mark of the third period evened the score at 34, but Mitchell scored the next 12 points, building a 46-34 advantage before Rustin Muse halted the run with a 3-pointer. Mitchell’s Jordan Bailey responded with a 3-pointer, and the Mountaineers pulled away to a 55-39 lead by the end of the quarter.
Polk County dropped into a zone for parts of the fourth period, but Mitchell was able to keep the lead in double digits throughout the final eight minutes.
Jaylon Bontrager added 13 points for Polk County, with Wingo scoring seven, Lipscomb scoring six, Muse and Owens each finishing with three, Derkach and Malik Miller scoring two and Sutton and Seth Hardin each adding one point.
The Wolverines return to Western Highlands Conference play on Tuesday, traveling to Avery.