As the fourth quarter arrived Monday, Polk County needed a scoring jolt.
So the Wolverines naturally turned to their defense.
Polk County upped the pressure on Patton and picked up its pace in the process, pulling away for a 50-38 home victory over the Panthers in the opening round of the Mountain Foothills 7 Conference basketball tourney.
The Wolverines (13-7) will now face R-S Central in a semifinal matchup at R-S on Wednesday at 4 p.m. The winner of that contest will not only move into the tourney final, but will also secure the conference’s second automatic berth for the state 2A playoffs.
Patton (5-17) trailed 14-5 at the end of Monday’s opening period, but the Panthers began to get their motion offense in sync, finding baskets while creating open shots in the paint. The Panthers also kept Polk County’s offense in check to trail just 20-16 at the half and then force a 27-27 tie at the end of the third quarter.
But Polk cranked up its defensive intensity to open the final period, translating into scoring opportunities on its end. Olivia Overholt hit a pair of free throws, Kylie Lewis grabbed a rebound and scored and Mia Bradley drilled a 3-pointer as the Wolverines put together a 7-0 run in the first 1:40 of the quarter.
Overholt added another free throw, then forced a turnover near midcourt, raced to the basket and scored to not only give Polk a 37-28 advantage, but also reach the 1,000-point mark for her career, the fifth Polk girls player in school history to accomplish that feat.
Overholt added a 3-pointer and a foul shot to complete a 14-2 run that gave the Wolverines command of the game.
“Our senior guards (Overholt and Tori Thompson) stepped up and created offense from their defense,” said Polk head coach Brandy Alm. The duo returned after missing Friday’s loss to Brevard while competing in the state indoor track meet. “It was nice to have them back.
“We applied more pressure to their guards and forced some turnovers, and we were able to capitalize on those. I’m very proud of the effort tonight.”
Overholt racked up 11 points in the first quarter, hitting three straight 3-pointers and a pair of foul shots. The last three, a long triple from the top of the key, gave Polk a 14-5 edge and prompted a Patton fan to yell that “somebody’s going to have to guard her.”
That Patton did in the second period, keeping Overholt and the Wolverines scorless until 1:38 remaining in the quarter. The Panthers erased the nine-point deficit by that point, but Overholt’s six points in the final 98 seconds helped give the Wolverines a 20-16 lead at the half.
Overholt finished with 29 points, with Lewis scoring eight and Thompson adding seven. Bradley and Kiera Littlejohn each added three points for Polk.