BOYS BASKETBALL: Alm’s record night helps rally scrappy Wolverines past Trojans
Published 12:11 pm Wednesday, January 17, 2024
Tuesday evening epitomized how Polk County’s boys basketball team has played of late.
Gritty. Relentless. Scrappy.
The Wolverines have shown a penchant this season for second-half comebacks, but the one they authored against Chase topped all to date. Trailing by 16 points in the second quarter, Polk rallied to win by 16, pulling away for an 83-67 victory in a Mountain Foothills 7 Conference matchup.
It proved a wild, emotional, whistle-filled evening – Chase had four starters foul out, and both teams had multiple technicals. The frigid evening outside also offered a record-setting effort indoors.
Polk sophomore Gunnar Alm finished with 43 points, setting a new home mark for a Wolverine player. The effort, which included 18 fourth-quarter points, broke the old record of 37 points set by Clark Phipps in 2019. Alm’s 22 free throw attempts were also a new school best, besting the old standard of 19 set by Chris Mintz. Alm was one point short of Jamal Tanner’s overall single-game record of 44 points and one made free throw short of Jimmy Lynch’s mark of 16 as Alm finished 15-of-22 at the foul line.
“We got our heads together and started executing what we came in planning to do and actually playing a little bit of defense in the second half,” said Polk County head coach Daniel Bradley. “They stuck together throughout the game, and that’s the key thing.
“I don’t care what was on the scoreboard. No matter what was happening in that game, everybody stayed together, nobody was complaining. That’s the effort and the idea that we’re trying to achieve with what we’re doing.”
Certainly, there was a lot happening in the game, including a game-turning sequence midway through the fourth period.
Polk County (3-12, 1-3) trailed by 12 points with six minutes to go, and Chase (0-14, 0-4) certainly had thoughts of snapping its winless run. Aggressively pressing the Trojans, the Wolverines sliced the gap to eight, then to six with four minutes left on a Lawson Carter putback. Avery Harden made it 66-62 with 3:41 remaining on a layup following a nice assist out of the high post from Aaron Jackson.
Jackson then stole a long pass in the Chase frontcourt and sent another long pass back upcourt to Alm, who drove to the basket and hit a layup while being fouled by Chase center Landon Barnes. The 6-6 Barnes, a junior who had 28 points and troubled the Wolverines all night, also drew a technical on the play for slamming the ball to the court after the whistle – his fifth foul, ending his evening.
Alm hit the free throw to complete the three-point play and make it 66-65. Jackson hit the two technical free throws to give Polk a 67-66 edge, its first of the game. Seconds later, Alm grabbed a rebound, scored and drew the fifth foul against Chase’s other big man, Jeremiah Lipscomb. Alm hit that free throw to give Polk a 70-66 advantage and leave the Trojans without their two key inside players.
Alm scored on a steal and layup 11 seconds later to make it 72-66 and cap a 14-0 flurry in a two-minute span. With Chase unable to find any consistent source of offense in the final minutes, the Wolverines steadily pulled away, ending the game on a 25-1 run in the final four and a half minutes.
Give Chase plenty of credit – the Trojans entered determined to work the ball inside to Barnes and Lipscomb, and the plan certainly worked. Barnes had 14 points in the first half and Lipscomb had 11, driving the Trojans to a 33-17 edge with three minutes left in the second quarter.
Quietly, though, Polk worked that deficit to eight points by halftime, with Jackson scoring five points, including a dunk, in a 10-2 run before the break.
Polk pulled within four early in the third period on 3-pointers by Avery Harden and Alm, and got as close as three before Barnes again proved troublesome, scoring 12 points in the quarter and helping Chase build that 12-point lead early in the fourth.
Cue the comeback.
“We could have done better stopping them inside,” Bradley said. “That’s where we’ve seen issues all season, guys beating us up on the inside. We have to keep working hard on defense, not hesitating to slide over and move your feet and go help out.
“That’s what we’re trying to get to and they did a lot better job in the second half of doing that.”
Jackson finished with 21 points, with Harden adding nine. Carter finished with six, with Khalil Austin adding four.
Polk County returns to the court on Friday, traveling to East Rutherford for another MF7 clash.