Wolverines douse Blue Flame in OT after furious fourth-quarter comeback

Published 11:26 am Friday, December 29, 2023

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Just more than two minutes remained in regulation Thursday afternoon and Polk County trailed Pickens (S.C.) by 11 points.

Turns out the Wolverines were perfectly positioned for a victory.

Polk closed the quarter with a 15-4 run to force overtime, then outlasted the Blue Flame in the extra period to take an 87-83 victory in the consolation bracket of the Knights 11th Annual Christmas Tournament.

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The win advanced Polk County (2-8) into the tournament’s fifth-place game, where the Wolverines were scheduled to face conference rival R-S Central, who defeated Mountain Heritage earlier in the day. Tournament organizers and teams decided to avoid the matchup of conference schools, so Polk County will face Mountain Heritage at 12:10 p.m. in a consolation game at North Henderson High School.

Pickens (3-9) held a 73-62 lead with 2:10 remaining in the fourth quarter before Polk County began to fight back. Gunnar Alm hit a three throw and Antonio Simpson canned a short jumper to make it 73-65, and Simpson then grabbed a rebound and dribbled the length of the court for a layup to make it 73-67 with 59 seconds remaining.

Aaron Jackson forced a steal, was fouled and hit two foul shots to cut the deficit to 73-69. Following a Pickens foul shot, Alm scored on a pair of drives to slice the deficit to 74-73 with 25 seconds left.

With 11.9 seconds remaining, Pickens looked to inbound the ball under its basket. But Simpson smartly drew a pushing foul on the inbounds play, then hit the tying free throw to force overtime.

Simpson opened the extra period with a thunderous two-hand dunk, and Polk led 84-80 when Pickens’ Eli Doty drained a long 3-pointer to cut the lead to one with 21 seconds left. Simpson hit a free throw to make it 85-83, and Jackson blocked a Pickens shot on the opposite end, with Polk grabbing the loose ball.

Alm and Simpson each hit a free throw in the final 6.4 seconds to seal the win.

Alm finished with 29 points and Simpson had 28 to power Polk County’s offense. Jackson added 15 points and Lawson Carter finished with 10.

Avery Harden added three points, with Khalil Austin scoring two.