Polk women advance in WHC basketball tournament

Published 7:09 pm Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Digging into their combined reserve energy, Polk County High School’s women’s basketball team found enough to defeat Owen High School, 48-38, at Columbus on Tuesday evening, Feb. 18 to advance to this (Thursday) afternoon’s semi-final round of the Western Highlands Conference tournament.

Game time is 4 p.m. at Hendersonville, as the Wolverines meet Mountain Heritage, who defeated Polk in the team’s previous two meetings this season.

Entering Tuesday’s game, Polk had won three straight, including Monday’s regular-season ending 62-31 victory against Owen.

This Owen player appears stuck, as the Wolverines Lyric Flood (left) and Sarah Phipps box her in on defense. (photo by Mark Schmerling)

This Owen player appears stuck, as the Wolverines Lyric Flood (left) and Sarah Phipps box her in on defense. (photo by Mark Schmerling)

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That game left both teams with less than full energy resources, but Polk, with a small roster, stayed a step ahead when it counted. It was the Wolverines’ third consecutive win against Owen, but it wasn’t easy.

“They out-hustled us most of the game,” said coach Craig Culbreth.

“Then the middle of the fourth quarter, we turned it on some. We were tired most of the game,” Culbreth admitted. “I was impressed with their girls. They got up and down the floor. For the first two and a half quarters, I think they (Owen) got every loose ball.”

Regardless, Polk kept finding ways, whether it was Hayley Kropps’ game-high 25 points, Sara Phipps’s 15 rebounds; three three-pointers by Lyric Flood; or the tough defense that caused Owen to miss many shots.

Before the game, Culbreth’s advice to his team included, “‘Don’t get over-confident.’”

Polk led by just 13-12 after the first quarter, but opened the lead to 18-12 (having scored 10 straight after being down, 12-8) before Owen hit a three-pointer to make it 18-15.

In spite of Owen’s running, Polk continued to shoot better, outscoring the visitors, 14-9 in the second period, for a 27-21 lead at the half.

At one point, the score was tied at 21, but Flood hit consecutive three-pointers to make it 27-21.

Culbreth has often mentioned Polk needing to stop having one bad quarter per game.

This game, it was the third, with Owen outscoring the Wolverines, but only by 9-6, to keep Polk on top, 33-30, with one period to go. Than included an 8-0 Owen run.

With the Wolverines up by just 33-32 early in the final period, Janada Carson hit two of two from the free-throw line, to create more breathing room. Phipps hit a goal to make it 37-32.

Shortly after that, during a time out, Culbreth encouraged his players, “We’ve got to jump!”

The Lady Wolverines did just what coach requested.

After an Owen player hit both free throw shots to make it 37-35, Kropp’s goal made it 39-35.

She then raced the length of the court to sink another basket, to give Polk a 41-35 lead. With just over a minute to play, Polk led 43-37.

Kropp’s two-for-two from the line put Polk up, 47-38, with just 54 seconds to go. Ball control by the Wolverines took it from there.

Against Mountain Heritage, “We’ve got to keep moving the ball,” said Culbreth. “Mountain Heritage is the best team in the league (conference) for a good reason,” observed Culbreth.