Polk County's Isaiah Spears powers to the basket as R-S Central's Matthew Horton defends during Tuesday's action

A slow start from the field settled Polk County’s fate Tuesday by the end of the first period. An R-S Central team considered one of the state’s top 2A squads made certain of that.

The margin, though, gave Wolverine head coach Lemont Jones a chance to give some of his younger players extended playing time. And Jones saw positives in the play of sophomores such as Wayne Carson, Isaiah Spears and Lawson Carter.

That served as the highlight of the evening for the Wolverines as the Hilltoppers raced to a 28-2 lead at the end of one quarter en route to a 78-34 victory in a Mountain Foothills 7 Conference clash at Polk.

R-S Central (12-2, 2-0) shares the conference lead with Patton, owns a win over Hendersonville and is ranked fourth in the state in the latest North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2A RPI standings. The Hilltoppers feature 6-7 freshman Mikey Wilkins, already drawing interest from college recruiting services.

That made the matchup a challenge for Polk County (5-5, 0-3) from the start, and the test grew sterner with the absence of sophomore post Antonio Simpson, battling a sore knee, and early foul trouble for senior post Kanye Staley.

“They’re better than we are. They’ve probably got the best ninth grader in the state,” Jones said. “They locked us up and they did what they were supposed to do.

“They played hard and played with class, and I appreciate that. Our kids did the same thing. We’re just not at that level yet.”

R-S Central made it a point to shut down Polk County senior Dominique Carson and did just that, holding Carson to a season-low two points. Wayne Carson and Mackus Simpson each had eight points to lead Polk, with Vincent Twitty adding seven.

Brandon West had four points, with Kris Littlejohn scoring three and Landen Bradley adding two.

Wilkins had 19 points and Tyrese Miller added 16 points to pace R-S.

“I thought our kids played hard,” Jones said. “We’re learning on the ropes. I saw some good things from all of our sophomores.”

Polk County steps out of conference play on Thursday, traveling to East Henderson for a non-league matchup that will be shown live on NFHS Network.