3-point barrage helps Polk County top Chase

Published 11:16 am Sunday, February 5, 2023

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Polk County managed just a pair of 2-point field goals in the first half of Friday’s regular-season home finale against Chase.

And still led by five points at the break.

A barrage of 3-pointers pushed the Wolverines in front, and Polk kept the Trojans at bay long enough in the second half to claim a 65-63 win in a Mountain Foothills 7 Conference matchup.

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The first half offered the outside shooting effort that Wolverine head coach Lemont Jones expected all season. Mackus Simpson hit six 3-pointers, recent addition Damon Williams had a pair and Kris Littlejohn hit two more, those 10 triples boosting Polk to a 36-31 edge at the half.

The Trojans remained in a man-to-man defense in the second half and slowed Polk’s outside bombing. The Wolverines finished with 12 threes, one short of the school record, and Simpson’s six also sat one shy of the school best.

“Finally we shot the ball well in our home gym,” Jones said. “I knew it was going to come one day. I was hoping it might be in a state championship game. But they shot the ball well.”

Polk County (6-14, 2-8) never lost the lead in the second half, but Chase (6-15, 3-7) never let the margin reach double digits. Polk’s biggest bulge came with 4:45 remaining as Littlejohn hit a free throw to put the Wolverines up 59-50.

Polk missed five straight free throws at that point, though, and Chase pulled within four in the final minute. The Trojans got the deficit down to three with seven seconds left, but Littlejohn hit a free throw with 5.9 seconds left to push the advantage back to four before Chase added a basket just before the final buzzer.

Free-throw shooting was Polk’s only Achilles’ heel – the Wolverines finished 12-of-26 at the line, including 7-of-16 in the fourth quarter. But Polk’s defensive effort and rebounding kept Chase from taking advantage.

The Wolverines paid special attention to stopping 6-7 Chase standout Addison Archer, often sagging a second defensive player back to effectively sandwich Archer as he looked for room in the low post. Archer finished with 20 points, with eight of those at the free-throw lone.

The Wolverines dressed just eight players for the game and lost Landen Bradley and Avery Harden at various points to injuries.

Simpson finished with 20 points, with Littlejohn scoring 14 and Williams adding 12. Aaron Jackson and Vincent Twitty had six points each, with Carson scoring four and Harden adding three.

Polk County will travel Tuesday to East Rutherford, and a win there could possibly push the Wolverines up into fifth place in the MF7 standings as the final week of regular-season play unfolds.