Polk County's Reeve Carroll drives to the basket late in the third quarter of Thursday's game

Polk County needed a spark.

Reeve Carroll, as she has so often done the past three years, provided one.

Carroll wasn’t having the best offensive afternoon of her Wolverine career Thursday, but the same could be said of everyone on the court for Polk’s Blue Ridge Conference Tournament opener against Waynesville Middle. It was a rough, rugged, defensive-minded battle, points precious and at a premium.

Closing seconds of the third quarter, Polk leading 20-17. Waynesville worked the ball downcourt and created what seemed to be an easy layup for a guard driving to the basket. Except Carroll slid across the lane and swatted away the attempt.

Not content, she grabbed the loose ball, raced upcourt, drove past a couple of Waynesville defenders and banked in a layup just before the end of the period. On Polk’s first possession of the fourth quarter, Carroll calmly drained a 3-pointer from the left wing, giving the Wolverines a 25-17 lead that eventually led to a 26-19 victory.

Carroll finished with 14 points in the win, none more instrumental than that five-point binge.

“She’s seasoned and she’s going to come through for you even if she’s not having her best night,” Polk Middle head coach Michelle Fagan said of Carroll. “You can count on her in the key moments, which is nice.”

Polk Middle’s Honesty Jackson applies defensive pressure in the second half of Thursday’s game

Polk Middle (11-2) held a 15-10 lead at halftime, but Waynesville (7-4) fought back to even the score midway through the third. Amiyah Waters regained the lead for Polk with a rebound and putback, then scored on a layup to put the Wolverines up 19-15.

It was 19-17 when Carroll hit a free throw, then followed that with her block and basket.

The Wolverines lost Sofie Abrahamsen to fouls early in the fourth quarter, forcing Kenzie Alm to slide into a post position. She, Waters, Jill Brown and Honesty Jackson helped hold the Mountaineers to just two points in the fourth quarter. Waynesville’s 0-for-6 effort at the foul line aided the cause.

“It was a very physical game, which is good for us,” Fagan said. “We missed a lot of layups that we should not have, we missed a couple of defensive assignments. Sofie got in foul trouble, so we were having to play a sixth grader at the four spot that she had never played.

“That’s asking a lot of a sixth grader, so we made a few adjustments and we made it through. I will take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day.”

Waters finished with 10 points for Polk Middle, with Brown scoring two.