BENTON — The Polk County girls fought Sequoyah toe-to-toe for 16 minutes and took a lead into halftime before the tables turned in the second half and the Lady Chiefs walked away with a 57-34 win over the Wildkittens.
The Wildcats battled to the finish, but squandered opportunities on crucial possessions cost the 'Cats at the buzzer with a 46-45 loss.
The Wildkittens were more than a match for the Lady Chiefs in the first two quarters. Emily Wilson and Riley Hatcher opened with back-to-back 3-pointers for Polk. A reverse layup by Wilson made it and 8-4 game minutes later.
Wilson finished with 20 points to lead Polk in scoring.
Sequoyah made it a 12-10 game with a 3 at the 2:15 mark in the first and took a 14-10 lead with less than two minutes to play. Wilson's 10-foot jumper and buzzer beater tied it at 14-14.
"They came out with a little zone look and I think we attacked that pretty well. We hit some open shots like we needed to and played ball with them," said Wildkittens coach Johnny Hayes.
Wilson's second 3 with 5:37 left in the first half, gave Polk its biggest lead of the night at 23-17. Both teams scored only from the free-throw line the rest of the way and at the break, the Wildkittens held a 25-22 advantage.
"Going in up by three at halftime, you can't ask for much more than that. We've just got to put all four quarters together and play the whole time," said Hayes.
The second half was a completely different story for Polk. A 23-5 third quarter scoring outburst by the Lady Chiefs put an end to any thoughts of an upset for the 'Kittens. Polk managed only nine points in the third and fourth quarters.
"It (lack of scoring) got on us pretty hard. Three and a half minutes went by in the third quarter and it went from us being up by three at halftime to them being up by 14 in three and a half minutes of play. That's unacceptable, you can't have that," said Hayes.
"It was a lack of getting back on defense and stopping them from shooting layups, playing defense like we should have been playing defense. It's like we totally changed at halftime and quit playing defense."
Offensively, the Wildkittens score only once from the floor — a 3 by Hatcher with 33 seconds left in the third — in the second half.
"We made one shot in the second half, 1 for 15, you can't win like that. And we missed a lot of free throws. It's getting toward tournament time and we need to step up and play a lot better basketball considering that."
CHIEFS 46, WILDCATS 45
A lot of fight, but a lot of wasted opportunities is how Wildcats coach Rusty Brewer describes the Wildcats performance in the night's closer.
Polk fought Sequoyah to the bitter end, but could not pull together needed momentum to get past the Chiefs on crititical possessions.
"We got down and we kept fighting and kept fighting and battling and battling. We battled our way back. The kids were busting it to get it where it was. But, we hurt ourselves. We turned the ball over and put ourselves in the position where we had to fight back and fight back and fight back," said Polk coach Rusty Brewer.
"We can't waste possessions and we wasted a lot of possessions."
Evan Ball led the Wildcats with 11 points, the only one to reach double figures. Cody Groomes and Will Richmond supplied the 3-point goals for the 'Cats. Groomes ended the night with two 3s and Richmond supplied another late in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats and Chiefs played through a tie ballgame five times in the first quarter before Sequoyah manages a 13-12 lead headed into the second.
The Chiefs outscored the Wildcats 9-4 in the second to take a 22-16 lead into halftime.
Groomes' two 3s in the third kept the Wildcats on the heels on the Chiefs. His second three of the quarter made it a 29-25 game before Sequoyah moved ahead 34-27 at the end of the period.
Polk kept stayed within a 2 to 3 possession game in the fourth. The Chiefs puled out to a nine-pont lead with 2:27 left in the game, but a pair of free throws by Ball and Richmond's 3 cut it to 45-41.
Ball made it a two-point game from the line with 1:26 to play. The Chiefs picked up on from the stripe with 22 seconds left to make it 46-43. The Wildcats had a final chance with three seconds left, but a blocked 3-point try locked up the win. Devin Weber lifted in a final basket for the Wildcats to cut it to a one-point game.
"It was tough there at the end. We had a opportunity, but it goes back to if we take care of the basketball you don't find yourself in that position at the end," said Brewer.
"We had possessions to tie it and we just couldn't finish. We were unable to finish opportunities we had and we just came up a little short."
LADY CHIEFS 57, WILDKITTENS 34
Sequoyah 14 8 23 12 — 57
Polk County 14 11 5 4 — 34
LADY CHIEFS (57) — Hunter Simpson 20, Slack 7, Weese 3, Atchley 8, Ingram 7, Freeman 8, Welshan 3, Isbill, Whitewd, Torbett.
WILDKITTENS (34) — Emily Wilson 19, Hatcher 7, Haynes 3, McClain 2, Liner, Epperson, Withrow.
3-point goals: Sequoyah 1 (Weese); Polk County 3 (Hatcher 2, Wilson).
Records: Sequoyah 13-4, 3-1 District 5-AA, ; Polk County 4- 13, 1-4.
CHIEFS 46, WILDCATS 45
Sequoyah 13 9 12 12 — 46
Polk County 12 4 11 19 — 45
CHIEFS (46) — Andrew Millsaps 22, Taylor Hawkins 15, King 3, Harmon, B. Strickland, T. Strickland.
WILDCATS (45) — Evan Ball 11, Richmond 9, Weber 6, Groomes 8, Hutcheson 2, Locke, Coffee.
3-point goals: Sequoyah 3 (Millsaps, Strickland, King); Polk County 3 (Groomes 2, Richmond).
Records: Sequoyah 8-10, 3-1 District 5-AA; Polk County 5-14, 1-3.