Polk County Middle began 2022 just as it ended 2021 – winning in the most thrilling of manners.
The Wolverines held on Thursday to defeat Apple Valley 30-28, upending the Blue Ridge Conference East Division co-leaders at Polk Middle.
The win is the fourth straight for the Wolverines (4-4), with three of those four by four points or less. Given that Apple Valley (5-3) won the first meeting between the two teams by 15 points, the final margin mattered little to anyone on the Wolverine bench.
Polk Middle roared to a 14-5 lead at the end of the first period and then settled into a defensive battle, maintaining that double-digit advantage until late in the third period.
Apple Valley standout Noah Pierce, though, scored 10 of the Knights’ next 12 points, leading a rally that pulled the Knights within 28-26, setting the stage for a frantic final minute.
With 51 seconds left, Pierce drew the fifth foul on Polk’s Aaron Jackson, but missed the ensuing 1-and-1 and also drew his fifth foul with 48 seconds left. That sequence took the game’s two leading scores out of action.
A turnover returned the ball to Apple Valley, who missed its next shot. Polk’s Avery Hensley grabbed the rebound, raced upcourt and sent a pass ahead to Lorenzo Sanchez, who hit a layup in traffic to give the Wolverines a 30-26 lead with 24 seconds left.
Polk missed a 1-and-1 chance with 11 seconds left, and Apple Valley’s Jamie Patel drew a foul while attempting a 3-point shot with two seconds left. Patel made the first two free throws, then followed a timeout with an intentional miss, only to see the Wolverines grab the rebound.
Polk missed a final 1-and-1 chance with a second left, but Apple Valley had no time for a final shot.
Jackson led Polk Middle with 17 points, with Sanchez scoring eight. Hensley had four points and Piercen Edwards added one.
Pierce led Apple Valley with 20 of its 28 points.
Polk Middle will look to continue its winning ways on Monday, traveling to Hendersonville Middle.