Charley Dusenbury drilled a jumper from the corner for two of her 14 points in Tuesday's win

Just about the only thing that went wrong for Polk County in the first half of Tuesday’s first round of the 1A state playoffs against Swain County happened when Bailey Staton got into some foul trouble.

She’d been brilliant in the first half, scoring 10 points in the first quarter, five more to start the second, and driving the Wolverines’ breakneck pace. Polk County led by 18 when Staton left the floor.

They led by 19 at the break.

The Wolverines put together a near-complete performance, downing Swain County 72-59 to advance to the second round of the playoffs. It was the Wolverines’ first home playoff win since 2009, and the first playoff win since 2015.

“We executed,” Polk County coach Brandy Alm said. “We ran our offense. We did exactly what we wanted to on defense until the fourth quarter. I feel like it was truly a team effort.” 

The Wolverines (16-10) will travel Friday to North Rowan (24-3) for a second-round game. The Cavaliers defeated Andrews 78-41 on Tuesday, with Catawba commitment Bailee Goodlett scoring 30 points with 11 steals. Goodlett also moved within 12 points of 2,000 for her career.

Staton’s sizzling first quarter was just one of a handful of strong performances for Polk County in the early going. Kiera Littlejohn had six first-half points, and six of her nine rebounds in the first quarter, including four on the defensive end. Kylie Lewis scored 11 of her 15 in the first half, Charley Dusenbury provided an offensive spark with Staton out, and Mia Bradley had six early points, beat the buzzer to end both the first and second quarters and played suffocating defense.

They also found a way to neutralize the Maroon Devils’ pressure defense without their point guard.

“They pressed us, and we relied on Charley and Brianna (Gray) and Mia to bring the ball down the court,” Alm said. “Our post players brought the ball down, which shows incredible confidence. I have given them the green light to dribble, but typically they won’t. They knew they had to, and they stepped up tonight.”

Polk County’s Kiera Littlejohn grabbed nine rebounds in Tuesday’s win

Lewis and Littlejohn, in particluar, helped take control of the contest. 

“They’re tough to guard,” Alm said. “They’re very talented, and every single game, every possession they have the ball, they improve and get better. They have more confidence.”

Alm said the ability to stretch a lead out to 20 points with key players like Staton and Bradley in foul trouble shows the growth she’s looking for.

“Tonight, we made a lot of adjustments when we got into foul trouble, and that says a lot about our team play,” she said. “I think we’ve really started to grow together as a team and make those adjustments together.”

Staton led the Wolverines with 28 points, and Dusenbury joined her and Lewis in double figures with 14. Lewis and Littlejohn each grabbed nine rebounds.

Swain County’s Marlee Hicks led all scorers with 30.