Team chemistry leads Wolverines to victoryPublished 3:18pm Thursday, December 1, 2011
By William Trakas
Wednesday night presented a great opportunity for the varsity teams at Polk County High School after a hard loss to Cherokee.
“We didn’t show up last night,” men’s coach Josh McEntire said. “It was important to come out and play well.”
The game started slowly with not much scoring in the first part of the opening quarter until sophomore guard Anthony Carson hit an acrobatic lay-up after getting fouled.
Carson completed the old-fashioned three-point play to break a 6-6 tie in the middle part of the first. Despite solid inside production from center Markece Cunningham, the Wolverines trailed by one at the end of the period, 16-15, largely due to three-point shooting from East’s guards. The second quarter was all Eagles as junior guard Brandon Horn’s three-point shooting led East to a 10-0 second quarter run. Horn had 8 second-quarter points on his way to a game high 25. Turnovers in the second period plagued the Wolverines and led to multiple fast-break opportunities for East. The game seemed to be swinging in the favor of the Eagles until a half ending technical foul called on East’s coach John Johnston resulted in a 4-point possession for the Wolverines and shifted momentum back to the home bench. Trailing only by 7 points at the half, the Wolverines went into the locker room feeling better about the situation.
Coach McEntire was very calm during his short halftime speech and focused on effort: “You guys just have to want it. Just get out there and hustle and want it.”
His players answered the call.
Coming out of the locker room the Wolverines appeared to be a completely different team, starting the second half on a 5-0 run that cut the lead to 2 points within the first two minutes of the third quarter. As the quarter progressed, senior forward Sam Vining’s experience and leadership proved to be a deciding factor as his 3-point play late in the third tied the game. On the next possession, Markece Cunningham hit a strong lay-up down low to give the Wolverines a two point lead, something they had not enjoyed since the first quarter. But the Eagles tied the game again at the end of the quarter with more of Horn’s three-point shooting. Things were all knotted up at 50 heading in to what was sure to be an intense fight in the fourth.
As the fourth period got underway, the Wolverines continued to show their swagger with lockdown defense. They took hold of the lead early in the quarter and never looked back. Behind Vining’s leadership and hustle, the Wolverines were able to extend their lead to 9 points with under 3 minutes to go and maintained the margin on their way to a 71-62 win.
“We just have great team chemistry,” Coach McEntire stated after the game, “All the guys like each other. There are no individuals on this team; everyone pulls for each other to do well and you’ll see that in our stats, we had five guys in double figures. I tell them ‘you just have to go out there and fight every possession.’ That’s the motto this year, just do your job and get better everyday.”
On the shutdown defense in the second half that only gave up 25 points: “We really stepped up on that side of the floor in the last half. It helped our offense too. If we play defense like that, I’ll take 71 [points] every night,” McEntire said.
“As long as we keep working hard and executing, we’ll be tough to stop,” he said. “We still haven’t unlocked our full potential. We’ve always had the potential but this year we have to chemistry needed to win.”
Wednesday was a great night to be a Wolverine as both varsity teams recaptured much needed swagger heading into Friday night’s showdown with archrival Landrum.