Burns loss doesn’t change Bradley’s rising optimism for Polk’s fortunes

Published 1:13 pm Monday, January 15, 2024

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The won-loss record obviously isn’t what Daniel Bradley hoped for as Polk County’s boys basketball coach.

But Bradley is sensing a change in the Wolverines, a positive change that he hopes translates into on-court success in the final month of the regular season.

Friday’s 71-64 loss to Burns dropped the Wolverines’ record to 2-12. But much as in the team’s loss Tuesday to R-S Central, a crucial stretch of play shaped the final outcome. Outside of that window, Polk County competed well with a Burns (5-8) team that beat the Wolverines much more easily earlier this season.

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“We’re growing as a team each game, and right now we’re growing in the right direction,” Bradley said. “I think the guys are fighting and the locker room is a lot more positive.

“They’ve learned that negativity doesn’t help anything. We’ve been losing while they were being negative, now let’s try something different. They’re starting to buy in on that and that’s a good thing.”

Polk County trailed by 10 at the half, but put together a third-quarter run and pulled within 40-36 with three minutes to go in the period.

And then came that turning point. Senior guard Kamari Surratt sparked an 11-0 Bulldog run that lifted Burns to a 51-36 advantage early in the fourth quarter. Surratt had 16 second-half points and finished the night with 27 points.

Polk County, though, didn’t fold and allow Burns to continue to build the margin. The Wolverines battled to the wire, with Aaron Jackson canning a long 3-pointer at the final buzzer to cap a 28-point Polk fourth quarter.

“I took it too soft on them throughout the game,” Bradley said. “We should have pressed quicker against that team. With our lack of depth, my question is how quickly we go into that. I’m trying to learn how far I can push these guys and still have them when I need them.

“It was a great effort. They worked hard. We did a much better job against them than the first time we played them.”

Gunnar Alm finished with 26 points, including five 3-pointers, to lead Polk County. Jackson added 20 points, with Lawson Carter scoring 10.

Khalil Austin added eight points as the quartet accounted for all of Polk’s points.

The Wolverines are back in action on Tuesday, hosting Chase in a Mountain Foothills 7 Conference game.