Rugby checks Polk Middle offense in fourth to win clash of unbeatens

Polk County Middle stood toe-to-toe with Rugby Middle for three quarters of Tuesday’s matchup of unbeaten teams.

The Wolverines, though, ran out of toes for the final fourth.

Rugby held Polk Middle scoreless for the final 6:51, allowing the Raiders to take a 24-17 victory and first place in the Blue Ridge Conference’s East Division.

Polk Middle (4-1) entered with two of its top six players in quarantine, but the Wolverines raced undeterred to a 6-1 lead in the first quarter.

Rugby (5-0) relied on its defensive pressure on the perimeter to force a series of turnovers and storm back to an 11-8 lead late in the second. A Kylie Lewis free throw and Mia Bradley jumper made it 11-11, and Lewis scored again late in the half to send Polk Middle into the half down just 14-13.

Both teams entered with excellent defensive records, and that showed as points remained at a premium in the second half. Polk Middle still trailed by a point, 18-17, after the second of back-to-back baskets by Tali Thompson, the latter with 51 seconds left in the quarter.

Polk, though, wouldn’t score again, with Rugby spreading the floor and looking to kill time and create layups for most of the fourth quarter.

Thompson, Bradley and Gavionna Carson each scored four points for Polk, with Lewis scoring three and Leah Dotson adding two.

Polk Middle opens the second half of its regular season on Thursday, traveling to Apple Valley.