ENGLEWOOD — Rallying from an early double-digit deficit, Polk County posted an impressive victory over archrival McMinn Central Friday evening in Englewood.
The hosts charged out of the gate for a 24-14 advantage at the first horn, before the Boys from Benton began to climb out of the hole with a trio of 20-plus point periods.
The Wildcats (12-3, 4-1 District 5-AA) were able to knock a half dozen points off the difference in the second frame, to trail just 39-35 at the intermission.
Polk kept up the pressure after the break closing the gap to a single point with a 24-19 third period edge before blowing past Central (6-8, 3-2) 21-13 in the final eight minutes for the key District 5-AA victory.
After being held scoreless in the opening quarter, Caleb Milen led the rally with a game-high 28 points, including 7-for-8 at the free throw line, in the final three frames. He notched a double-double with 10 rebounds, while also dishing off a trio of assists, copping two steals and blocking a pair of Charger shots.
Tennessee Wesleyan two-sport signee Luke Burrows helped out with 15 points and eight caroms.
Tannar Patterson garnered 13 points, nine of which came in the second half, nine ricochets and a pair of thefts.
Eli Cross collected 10 points, four boards and a couple of helps, while Josh Groomes netted eight markers for the victors.
"This was a great win for anyone that has ever wore Polk across their chest, especially in the 'roundhouse,' (the Central gymnasium)" proclaimed Wildcat head coach Jon Tucker.
"We need to keep moving forward because there is a lot of basketball left to play. Proud of these guys and the way they handled themselves down the stretch in this type of environment."
Polk leads Sweetwater (12-3, 3-1) by a half game in the district standings, but suffered their lone 5-AA loss (68-61) to the Blue-and-Gold Wildcats back in mid-December.
Polk will travel to Sequoyah (7-8, 2-3) Tuesday and entertain Loudon (7-7, 2-2) Friday in league play this week.
Friday, Jan. 10
Polk County . 14 . 21 . 24 . 21 — 80
McMinn Central . 24 . 15 . 19 . 13 — 71
WILDCATS (80) — Caleb Milen 28, Luke Burrows 15, Tannar Patterson 13, Eli Cross 10, Josh Groomes 8, Kevin Dodd 6, Burgess, Adams.
CHARGERS (71) — Darius Cardon 21, Isaiah Farrar 17, Garrett King 8, Carter Henderson 7, Caleb Foote 7, Cade Falts 5, Murphy 4, Armstrong 2.
3-point goals: PC 5 (Burrows, Groomes, Cross, Milen, Dodd); MC 8 (Farrar 3, Cardon 3, Foote, Henderson).
Free throws: PC 15-of-26; MC 11-of-16.
Records: Polk County 12-3, 4-1 District 5-AA; McMinn Central 6-8, 3-2 District 5-AA.