Clark Phipps didn’t have a good pregame Wednesday, didn’t feel particularly confident about how much he would be able to contribute offensively to the final home game of his Polk County career.
Safe to say Phipps quickly overcome that sense of foreboding.
The Wolverine senior delivered the best offensive effort of his career and set a school record in the process, pouring in 37 points to lead Polk County to a 69-49 victory over Robbinsville.
Make no mistake – Phipps earned his share of the spotlight with a performance that broke the school mark for points scored in the PCHS gym by a Wolverine, that being the 36 points scored by Otis Miller during the 1992-93 season. Phipps also finished with seven rebounds, four steals and three assists.
Jamal Tanner still holds Polk County’s single-game scoring record, a 40-point effort at Hendersonville in January 2015.
But the night was just as much, maybe more, about the result, Polk County’s first win of the season and its first victory since Dec. 12, 2017, a streak of 35 games. It gave first-year head coach Lemont Jones his first win at Polk County and gave the Wolverine seniors a rewarding end to their home careers. And it was a win that Polk County earned with a workmanlike approach from the opening tip.
“We’ve said all season that we may not have the best shooting team or we may not have the tallest team, but don’t let anyone outplay us,” Jones said. “I saw a lot of hustle tonight. The kids played hard and they had fun, and that’s all you can ask kids to do.
“We told them before the game, let’s treat every quarter like it’s the first quarter. We didn’t play badly in any quarter. We played hard.”
Phipps had four points in the first quarter, but warmed up in the second period as Polk County (1-19) took command of the game. Leading 19-15 midway through the period, Polk closed with a 17-2 run, taking a 36-17 advantage at the half. Phipps scored 11 points in that run, with Dominique Carson adding the other six, as the Wolverines were able to force several turnovers and convert those into baskets in transition.
Phipps opened the third period with a 3-pointer to put Polk up by 22, but Robbinsville (4-16) began to fight back, pulling within 13 late in the quarter and 50-36 entering the fourth. Phipps, though, kept the Knights at bay, scoring 12 points in the final period, including a 6-of-6 effort at the foul line.
Polk County finished the night 23-of-28 at the free-throw stripe.
“It feels good to win. We’ve worked so hard for that,” Phipps said. “When I came out to warm up, I wasn’t really feeling it. I thought something was off with my shot. But as the game flowed, I hit a few shots and after that I felt fine.
“(The record) means a lot. All the hours I’ve shot here and at home, I guess they didn’t go to waste.”
Carson had 14 points, with Zeke Hermann adding 11 points. Tyler Staley had five points, with Nate Henderson adding two. Hermann and Amir Gray each had three rebounds, with Hermann also adding four steals.
Polk County returns to Western Highlands Conference play on Friday, traveling to Mitchell.