MARSHVILLE – Polk County rolled into The Hive Tuesday evening and found out plenty about the buzz around junior guard Jamyah Blakeney.
Blakeney’s 21 points certainly played a key role in Forest Hills’ 55-35 victory in the opening round of the state 2A girls basketball playoffs. But her role in ending the Wolverines’ season wasn’t limited to scoring alone.
The junior, who recently topped 1,000 career points, led an aggressive Forest Hills halfcourt defense that often trapped Polk County ballhandlers on the perimeter, forcing turnovers that in turn led to fast-break points on the opposite end.
The Wolverines (13-9) had some success generating scoring chances inside when they could get into their offensive set. But Forest Hills (21-5) made that difficult, which in turn made for a long night for Polk County.
“They’re very athletic,” said Polk County head coach Brandy Alm. “Defensively, their pressure helped spark their offense, and that’s how they took advantage. (Blakeney), she’s a fierce competitor. She’s a good, solid basketball player.”
Forest Hills grabbed a 12-1 lead before Kiera Littlejohn’s putback with 2:49 left in the first period gave the Wolverines their first basket. The Yellow Jackets steadily built their lead, though, and Blakeney’s 3-pointer shortly before the halftime buzzer gave Forest Hills a 31-11 halftime edge.
But deterred, the Wolverines were not. Polk County, which played without injured senior guard Tori Thompson, continued to battle in the second half, making a fourth-quarter charge and dropping the deficit back below 20 for a time before it settled there at the end of the night.
“They never gave up. They gave 110 percent effort, which has been the story of our season,” Alm said. “They don’t give up.
“We just couldn’t get the ball into the basket. Their intensity and physicality were just something we hadn’t seen before.”
Freshman Kylie Lewis led Polk County with 14 points and was a force on the defensive boards. Fellow freshmen Mia Bradley had six points and Littlejohn finished with three. They, along with Gavionna Carson, are part of a group of newcomers that will anchor Wolverine basketball for some time to come. They gained invaluable experience in their first playoff competition.
Olivia Overholt closed her stellar Polk County career with 12 points, leading a senior class that includes Thompson and Kinsley Huskey. Overholt finished her career with 1,035 career points, unofficially fifth all-time in school history and accomplished in three seasons.