And that’s how you say goodbye.
Prior to Friday’s regular-season finale, Polk County boys basketball coach Lemont Jones challenged his seniors to make a memory in their last home game, to produce an effort that they’d recall years later with pride.
That, the Wolverines did, closing the season with a 65-56 victory over Brevard in a Mountain Foothills 7 Conference matchup.
True, the victory snapped an eight-game losing streak and also gave Polk County (7-13, 1-11) its first conference win since joining the MF7. That didn’t seem to matter nearly as much to a senior class that walked off the court with wide smiles and heads raised.
“I told the seniors to leave it all out there, and that’s what they did. They created a memory,” Jones said. “The whole team played well. It’s been a tough year for them, but they have never stopped playing hard.”
Polk saw opportunities for victories slip away twice earlier in the week in the fourth quarter. The Wolverines made certain that wouldn’t happen again, though Brevard (6-12, 4-8) did not make it easy.
Polk clung to a 50-46 lead early in the final quarter before putting together a run of eight straight points to boost the margin to double digits. Dominique Carson started the spurt with two free throws, and back-to-back steals by Kanye Staley led to baskets by Vincent Twitty and Carson.
Riley Searcy capped the run with a short baseline jumper, putting Polk up 58-46 with 4:55 to go.
Brevard, though, had a run of its own left to go. The Blue Devils steadily chopped away at that margin, closing to 60-56 with 1:57 to go. But Brevard wouldn’t score again, and the Wolverines hit 5-of-8 free throws to seal the game.
Carson, who surpassed 1,000 career points earlier this season, dribbled out the final seconds of the game near midcourt, a grin spreading across his face.
Neither team led by more than seven points in a nip-and-tuck first half that ended with Kris Littlejohn hitting a 3-pointer for a 30-26 Polk deficit at the half. The Wolverines finally evened the score in the third period at 38-38 on a Wayne Carson layup, then took an advantage they would never lose on a Dominique Carson 3-pointer.
Dominique Carson finished with 25 points, with Kris Littlejohn adding 17.
“Kris Littlejohn played well tonight,” Jones said. “He’s coming into his own. These last three games, he’s really come into his own and played well.
“We’ve got a good team. We’ve just got to put things together. It’s been a balancing act all year. But they always give total effort, and that’s all I can ask.”
Wayne Carson added eight points for Polk, with Twitty scoring six. Mackus Simpson finished with five points, with Searcy and Staley each adding two.
Polk County will open play Monday in the Mountain Foothills 7 Conference postseason tourney. The Wolverines are tentatively set to travel to Hendersonville for their opening game, with pairings to be formally set Saturday.