What looked to be a much-deserved win Saturday for Polk County instead turned into a repeat no one in blue and white wanted to see.
For the second time this season, Avery rallied from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to hand Polk County a four-point loss, this outcome a 34-30 home setback for the Wolverines.
In a season that has been anything but easy for Polk, the past two weeks have been especially tough, with quarantines – external and internal – sidelining the team for two weeks. Saturday’s game was the second in less than 24 hours for the Wolverines and the second in what will be five games in eight days to close the season.
It looked as if Polk’s patience through all of that disruption would be rewarded. A third-quarter outburst sparked by senior Kaylin Jenkins gave the Wolverines (1-6, 1-6) a 26-15 lead entering the final quarter. Jenkins scored the final eight points in the quarter as Avery (8-2, 6-2) had just a basket and free throw during that span.
The Vikings, though, began a comeback that echoed the ending of their 47-43 victory last month in Newland. Emree Holiman drilled a 3-pointer early in the fourth, and Alexis Stines and Cora Lee Hollifield followed with baskets to trim the Wolverines’ lead to 26-22.
Rachael Davis stopped Avery’s run with a rebound and basket to give Polk a 28-22 edge with 4:35 left, but Hollifield hit a 3-pointer, Stines turned a steal into a layup and Zoie McClarin drilled a jumper from the wing to give the Vikings a 29-28 advantage.
Polk’s Marissa Twitty worked inside for an easy basket to give the lead back to the Wolverines before Avery’s Addie Beck hit two free throws with 2:28 remaining for a 31-30 Viking edge. Neither team scored again until 35 seconds remained, when Hollifield hit a free throw to make it a 32-30 Avery lead.
Polk County called a timeout with 21 seconds left, then came out of that break and patiently looked for the tying basket. Twitty eventually got possession of the ball in the lane for what looked to be a sure layup, but Beck deflected the shot from behind, Polk County’s shouts for a foul going unheeded.
Stines added two free throws with five seconds remaining for the final margin.
Twitty had nine points and Jenkins had eight to lead Polk, with Sara Muse scoring five and Tori Thompson adding four.
Emmie McDowell and Davis each had two points for Polk County, which returns to its home court on Monday, hosting Mountain Heritage.