The Wildkittens (9-11, 2-4), who have been a team in transition since December, fell 12 points short against the Lady Redskins (12-9, 3-2), who came away with a 52-40 win.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats put forth what head coach Rusty Brewer considers their best effort of the season yet.
In their previous meeting on Dec. 13, Loudon was able to top Polk County 65-41. This go around, the Redskins (8-13, 4-1) edged the Wildcats (4-16, 0-6) out by seven points for a 56-49 win.
Polk put their best foot forward Friday night, outscoring Loudon 17-6 points in the first quarter.
“We came out and shot it early, and I think we may have shocked them quite a bit. They beat us by 21 up there, so their kids might not have expected us to come out and play like we did,” Brewer stated.
Despite a 19 point surge by the Redskins in the second quarter, the Wildcats were still able to go into the half with a five point, 30-25 lead over their district opponent.
Polk allowed Loudon only eight more points in the third quarter, while adding 12 more points to their own score.
With a 42-33 lead going into the final eight minutes of play, things seemed to be leaning in the Wildcats favor.
Unfortunately for the home team, the Redskins were able to surge past them after scoring 23 points in the final quarter while Polk managed to get only seven.
“I thought we played well in the first half; we just lost some of our energy in the second half and let them do some things offensively and on the boards that made the difference,” Brewer explained. “We’ve got to do a better job on the defensive end.”
With a little over four minutes remaining in the game, Loudon took their first lead of the game, after a basket by RT McBride put them up 46-45 over Polk.
Two minutes later, that lead had extended by six points and the Wildcats were forced to attempt to play catch-up for the first time in the game.
Foul trouble hit Polk, as Loudon solidified their come-from-behind win with five more points from the charity stripe.
Cody Groomes led the Wildcats with 14 points, with Blake Cross and Devin Weber chipping in 13 and 12 points respectively.
Polk had six 3-pointers in the game, with Groomes and Will Richmond hitting two a piece and Cross and Weber netting one of their own as well.
“I’m proud of the overall effort, and I told the guys that this might be the hardest we’ve played from start to finish all year long. That effort is going to win us some ball games in the future,” Brewer declared.
LADY REDSKINS 52
Around Christmastime, the Wildkittens’ head coach Johnny Hayes only had a roster of six girls to work with.
Now, with some new faces in the mix, he can’t help but be proud of the effort put forth by his team.
“We’ve had some personnel changes and had to overcome a few things. The girls have played hard consistently and haven’t given up on it,” Hayes commented.
In their previous meeting, the Wildkittens were able to come away with a 47-46 victory over the Lady Redskins.
This time around, they weren’t as fortunate as Loudon pulled ahead with a 12 point win.
“We split with Loudon — We beat them at their place, and they beat us here,” Hayes said. “It puts us in a bind because they beat McMinn Central while we lost to McMinn Central.”
A basket and 3-point bucket each had both teams tied up with 3:46 remaining in the first quarter.
A trey by Isabella Liner with 2:30 left gave the Wildkittens a 10-9 lead over the Lady Redskins, but a late basket reversed the one point lead in favor of the visitors.
Loudon opened up the second quarter with a nine point run that wasn’t broken up by Polk until there was four minutes left in the half.
The Wildkittens netted only five points in the second quarter, which came from a 3-pointer by Heather McLain and a bucket by Mikayla McClary.
Trailing Loudon 26-15 going into the third quarter, Polk was unable to curtail their district opponent’s offensive prowess.
“We would come down, hit a shot and cut the lead then we go down to the other end, give them an easy one, turn it over and before we knew it, it was an 18-point ball game,” Hayes stated. “We can’t give up those kind of runs and we have to do better on the offensive end.”
The Wildkittens were able to hit some shots and outscore the Lady Redskins 16-9 in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to curtail their 12 point deficit in the end.
“We’ve got to keep focusing on our offensive execution and getting shots in,” Hayes explained. “We also have to handle pressure a lot better. They pressed us there for a little while and that changed the momentum of the game to their favor.”
McLain led the Wildkittens with a total of 19 points, which included a trio of 3-pointers. McClary had 11 points in the game.
The Polk County ladies were 9-for-10 from the free-throw line, while Loudon hit only 7-of-13 of their free-throws.
Polk County will host Tellico Plains on Tuesday.
Loudon 11 15 17 9 — 52
Polk County 10 5 9 16 — 40
LADY REDSKINS (52) — Aspen Jordan 13, Small 9, Malone 9, Kelley 9, Snow 6, Baxter 3, Tucker 3, Peyton, Moore, Jones, Harmon, Crabtree, Kizziah.
WILDKITTENS (40) — Heather McLain 19, Mikayla McClary 11, Liner 6, Muller 4, Davis, Johnson, Withrow, Waldroup, Trew.
3-POINTERS: L 5 (Baxter, Tucker, Small, Malone, Kelley); PC 5 (McLain 3, Liner, McClary).
FREE THROWS: L 7-of-13; PC 9-of-10.
RECORDS: Polk County 9-11, 2-4 District 5-AA; Loudon 12-9, 3-2 District 5-AA.
Loudon 6 19 8 23 — 56
Polk County 17 13 12 7 — 49
REDSKINS (56) — Tyler Ferguson 16, Jacob Arden 14, JA Norton 10, Jenkins 8, McBride 4, Smallen 2, Hoover 2, Blankenship, Mendez, Nichols, Williams, Gillis, Mills, Carter.
WILDCATS (49) — Cody Groomes 14, Blake Cross 13, Devin Weber 12, Richmond 8, Wimberley 2, Sipe, Locke, Ownbey, Coffey, Frerichs.
3-POINTERS: L 3 (Jenkins, Norton, Arden); PC 6 (Groomes 2, Richmond 2, Cross, Weber).
FREE THROWS: L 13-of-21; PC 5-of-7.
RECORDS: Polk County 4-16, 0-6 District 5-AA; Loudon 8-13, 4-1 District 5-AA.