Wolverines much improved, but fall to Landrum again

Published 4:15 pm Thursday, December 11, 2014

Polk Landrum Mens_DSC6086web

Landrum’s Jacob Corn is unable to get a handle on this potential rebound, while Polk’s Jamal Wheeler (10) is ready to grab the ball.

For the first sixteen minutes on Tuesday evening, it looked like Polk County might pay back Landrum for the Cardinals’ Dec. 5 89-42 win over the Wolverines in men’s varsity basketball.

Third-quarter play, however, where the Cardinals outscored Polk, 23-8, helped Landrum post a 74-55 win at Polk County.

Landrum moved to 3-1, while Polk fell to 0-4.

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“We ran out of gas,” admitted Polk coach Josh McEntire, who also pointed out that his squad includes many football players, who, because of the Wolverines’ two-game foray into the state playoffs, joined practices late, resulting in very few whole-team, pre-season practices.

In all, the Wolverines played markedly better than they had at Landrum last Friday.

In Tuesday’s adrenalin-burner, Jason Chupp, Wes Mullis and Jamal Wheeler helped Polk take an 18-17 lead after the first quarter.

That took some doing, as Landrum built a 6-0 lead. Polk’s first point came from Chupp, who was one-for-one at the foul line. After the Wolverines scored another basket, Wheeler fed Chupp (One of Wheeler’s five assists), who laid one up to make it 6-5.

Both teams played in a fury, including a steal on which Chupp scored two more from underneath.

With the teams trading leads and each giving the other no quarter, Landrum led, 17-15, with just a few seconds remaining in the first quarter. At that point, Wheeler got the ball, and from the Landrum end of the court, hooked an implausible shot that scorched through the net, just before the buzzer, to put the Wolverines up, 18-17.

Chupp led the Wolverines with 17 points, adding six rebounds and five steals. Wheeler, who seemed primed to tear the game open before Landrum adjusted its coverage, was all over the court, stealing, passing (five assists), and attacking the hoop and both boards (He also pulled down seven rebounds, while scoring nine points).

Mullis, one of those late-returning football players, has added strength and experience over last season, exhibiting a large measure of confidence. He also grabbed 11 rebounds.

In the second quarter, Landrum went ahead, 29-23 on Foster Bridges’s three-pointer. Bridges popped 18 points to lead all players. Landrum’s balanced attack included double-figure scoring by Trey Smith (10), Kevin Neal (10), Andrew Mitchell (12), and Jacob Corn (13).

At the half, Landrum led, 38-34, with the Wolverines very much in the game. In fact, a goal by Chupp closed the gap to 38-36 early in the third quarter, but Landrum scored eight straight points, aided largely by the shooting and ball handling of Foster Bridges and Neal

From that point, the Cardinals’ larger roster enabled Landrum to keep rotating better-rested players, wearing down Polk. After three quarters, Landrum enjoyed a 61-42 advantage. Perhaps the shot that sealed the Cardinals’ win was a three-pointer late in the third quarter that gave them a 60-40 lead. After three, it was 61-42, Landrum.

In spite of this, Polk held Landrum even in the final period, with each team netting 13.

Polk boxed out much better for rebounds, but Landrum adjusted its defense, and was able to keep fresh troops on the floor for all 32 minutes.

“We came out and responded,” remarked Wolverines’ coach Josh McEntire. “We ran out of gas in the second half, but we kept fighting.”

Noting that the Cardinals defended Wheeler with a box and one, McEntire observed, “Landrum is smart. They play a lot of basketball. They’re well-coached.”

Last Friday at Landrum, dominating every quarter, Landrum whipped Polk, 89-42,.

Four Cardinals scored in double-digits.

“We came out with a lot of energy,” said Cardinals’ coach Lyn Smith.  “We played well as a team,” before what Smith described as a “big rivalry crowd.”

The Landrum portion of the crowd had plenty to cheer about, as the Cardinals led, 19-9 after the first quarter, and 51-26 at the half.

Smith also noted that the Cardinals played good defense, also observed by the crowd.

Both teams ran afoul of officials, but Landrum shot much straighter from the line.

Smith emphasized that of 15 players on his roster, ten had no varsity experience before Friday night.

“I’m not sure how well they’ll do (overall this season),” Smith admitted, given the possibility of “freshman mistakes.”

However, teamwork might smooth out potential rough spots.

“It’s a close team,” Smith pointed out. “They cheer for each other.”

Foster Bridges led all scorers with 22 points, while teammate Smith, just an eighth-grader, came off the bench to net 14.

“Any time you have young players who can contribute like that, it’s going to be a good thing,” Smith remarked.

Corn netted 16, while Neal, a hard-driving point guard, added 17. Smith emphasized that Neal was aggressive on offense, driving around opposing players, to the hoop, as he did on Tuesday.

Wheeler’s 17 points paced the Wolverines.

On Wednesday evening, the Wolverines were at North Henderson. Results were not available at press time. Tonight, they host Madison. On Tuesday, they visit Roberson (in Asheville). Polk hosts East Henderson on Tuesday, and visits Mountain Heritage next Friday.

Next Tuesday, the Cardinals visit Chesnee. Next Friday, they host Pendleton.