Polk County very nearly did the unthinkable Friday evening.
With seven minutes left in their Mountain Foothills 7 Conference opener, the Wolverines trailed Patton by 14 points. Less than five minutes later, the score stood tied and Polk County appeared to have all the momentum.
But the loss of senior guard Kris Littlejohn to fouls and Patton’s steady hand at the free-throw line in the final minutes helped the Panthers escape Polk with a 67-58 victory.
Polk County (3-5, 0-1) began its fourth-quarter rally with a remarkable span of eight points in 23 seconds. Littlejohn was fouled on a 3-point attempt and hit all three free throws, then forced a steal that led to a Mackus Simpson basket. Simpson then scored again seconds later, drew a foul and made that foul shot to cut what had been a 56-42 Patton lead with 6:36 to go to 56-50 with 6:13 remaining.
The Wolverines weren’t done. Simpson hit a pair of foul shots, Littlejohn hit two more and then drew another foul on a 3-point try and made two of those with 2:43 remaining to tie the score at 56-56.
Patton (3-4, 1-0), who hit 7-of-9 free throws in the final two and a half minutes, pushed ahead 61-56 with 1:29 remaining. Antonio Simpson trimmed the deficit to three on a basket with 58 seconds left, and Polk regained posession, but Patton’s Brady Chamberlain stole a Wolverine pass, scored on their other end, drew a foul and made that free throw to make it 65-58 and seal the win.
Polk grabbed its first lead of the night late in the first quarter, taking a 14-11 advantage on a Littlejohn 3-pointer and a Wayne Carson free throw. Patton answered with nine straight points to close the quarter and take a 20-14 lead, but Polk battled back in the second period to force a 33-33 tie at the half.
Antonio Simpson led Polk with 16 points, with Littlejohn scoring 13 before fouling out with 2:29 remaining. Vincent Twitty and Mackus Simpson each added seven points, with Carson scoring six.
Avery Harden had four points and Khalil Watley added three.
Polk County concludes its pre-holiday schedule on Tuesday, traveling to Hendersonville for another conference matchup.