Polk County's Gunnar Alm battles through the defense of East Rutherford's Eli Roof during Tuesday's game

Shorthanded, and facing a huge deficit, Polk County made a run.

It fell just short.

The Wolverines mounted a furious fourth-quarter comeback, trimming a 24-point East Rutherford lead to just nine before eventually falling 86-71.

“We didn’t have any quit in us in the fourth quarter,” Wolverines coach Daniel Bradley said. “We played some of the best defense at times that we’ve played all year.”

Polk County hung around after East Rutherford built a double-digit lead in the first half, eventually pulling to within six on Gunnar Alm’s banked-in 3-pointer at the second-quarter buzzer, trailing just 34-28. But they let the Cavaliers get away from them in the third quarter, eventually falling behind 61-27. 

“The first half we played well, and we moved the ball as well as we’ve done all year,” Bradley said. “We had a spell there in the third quarter where we let it get away from us, and we just couldn’t overcome it.”

The Wolverines (3-19, 1-10) sure tried to rally, though. They scored the last six points of the third quarter on a free throw from Alm, a bucket by Aaron Johnson, and an old-fashioned three-point play by Khristian Littlejohn. 

The fourth quarter started much the same as the third ended. Avery Harden and Jackson scored on back-to-back trips, and when Harden drew a charge on the other end, the lead was down to 14.

Polk County continued to chip away at the lead, and when Alm scored with 3:44 to play, the Wolverines had cut it to 71-62.

“We had some good opportunities,” Bradley said. “Sometimes we settle for shots. When we put pressure on the defense and stop settling, we’re much better.”

East Rutherford (13-11, 8-4) stretched it out again, but Polk County rallied, and Littlejohn’s bucket with just more than two minutes to play made it nine again, at 78-69.

However, East Rutherford’s Dacen Petty answered with a dagger. He hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game on the ensuing possession, made three out of four free throws the rest of the way, and the Cavaliers pulled away to the win.

Petty led all scorers with 39 to pace the Cavaliers. Grant Adkins had 13, including a trio of 3-pointers. JJ Arrowood scored 11, while Duvell Everett chipped in 10.

Jackson had 22 to lead Polk County, while Alm scored 21. Harden scored 14 for the Wolverines, while Littlejohn had 12 in just two quarters of play.

The Wolverines will now turn their attention to Senior Night for Thursday’s regular-season finale against Brevard, and Bradley said he’s happy to be honoring Polk County’s three senior players – Harden, Lawson Carter and Carmello Young.

“Those guys have really stuck with it,” he said. “It’s not been the season that anybody wanted, with wins and losses, but my hope is that they’ve been able to enjoy the journey and not have that single outcome as their mindset. And it seems like it’s been that way. These guys have really grown as a team.”