POLO – Milledgeville entered its boys basketball game against Polo undermanned and undersized, but that didn't stop the Missiles from throwing a bit of a scare into their neighbors just down the road.
The Marcos used a surge to start the third quarter to build a comfortable working margin and post a 75-55 victory Monday night in a Northwest Upstate Illini East contest.
Polo (11-5, 4-2) led 22-6 after AJ Dollmeyer dropped in a pair of free throws with 21 seconds remaining in the first quarter, and a rout appeared imminent. Milledgeville, however, closed the quarter on a 4-0 run, and continued creeping closer in the second.
The Missiles (4-10, 1-4) got as close as 28-24 when Caleb Skoog hit a 3-pointer with 3:20 left in the second, and they were still within striking distance (36-29) at halftime.
Polo scored the first 11 points of the third quarter, however, to regain control, and Milledgeville didn't get closer than 15 the rest of the way.
"We lost our momentum in the second quarter," Polo guard Brian Cavanaugh said, "but in the third quarter, we always come back. We're a second-half team. We usually out-score the other team by a lot in the second half."
Polo coach Matt Messer noted his team didn't create the havoc defensively in the second quarter it did early on, and as a result, some offensive opportunities dried up. The solution: keep up the pressure. It worked, and Milledgeville finished with 24 turnovers, 15 of them via Polo steals.
"We talked about keeping our energy level high," Messer said, "and we needed to finish plays at both ends. That showed at the beginning of the third quarter. We finished plays defensively and we were able to get out and get some buckets. When we had to, we also executed in the halfcourt."
The 6-foot-7 Dollmeyer cleaned up a lot of both team's misses with 16 rebounds, and he also dropped in 20 points. He's often not the focal point of the offense, but that didn't stop him from being effective.
"He wants the ball like everybody else on the court," Messer said, "but if his number's not called, he's going to work and try to find a way to get his points."
Brady Bushman finished with 13 points, and Brad Cavanaugh added 12 for Polo. Sawyer Frano chipped in with nine off the bench.
Milledgeville coach Brian Rahn would have liked his team to keep Dollmeyer off the glass better, but the main culprit was turnovers. Polo's attacking zone defense caused 10 turnovers in the opening 5 minutes of play, forcing the Missiles to play catch-up the rest of the night.
"We had some problems rebounding," Rahn said, "and gave up too many transition baskets off our turnovers. We just need to do a better job of taking care of the ball."
Skoog led Milledgeville with 12 points, Lucas Ebersole had 10, Jordan Harris had nine. Daniel Walker added eight points and eight rebounds.
Milledgeville was without starters Kaleb Ebersole (flu) and Zach Herin, who suffered an eye injury during practice last Friday.
Star of the game: AJ Dollmeyer, Polo, 20 points, 16 rebounds
Key performers: Brady Bushman, Polo, 13 points, 5 steals; Caleb Skoog, Milledgeville, 12 points, 6 rebounds
Up next: Milledgeville at Aquin, 7:30 Wednesday; Polo at Durand, 7:30 Jan. 22