POLO – The game plan was simple for the Polo Marcos: run, run, run, and when Hiawatha proved to be a willing participant, run some more.
The Marcos used a stellar transition game and their size advantage inside to roll to a 78-61 victory Tuesday night in a quarterfinal of the Class 1A Polo Regional.
Polo (19-7) scored 14 first-half layups, eight coming on fast breaks, and also added 10 points off putbacks and eight more from inside 10 feet to run out to a 50-21 halftime lead.
"We came in ready to run, and it worked out," Polo junior Brian Cavanaugh said. "We thought they'd slow things down, try and get us to play slower, but they kept running right with us, and we took advantage of it."
While the Marcos turned easy opportunities into 50 percent shooting (23-for-46) in the first half, the Hawks (5-19) struggled trying to match Polo's pace. Hiawatha shot just 23.5 percent (8-for-34) from the floor, and the Marcos made sure the quick misses were one-and-done.
Polo led 11-2 midway through the first quarter, extended the lead to 34-11 midway through the second, and led by as many as 35 points (56-21) less than 2 minutes into the third period.
"We wanted to try and run them out of the gym," Polo coach Matt Messer said, "use our depth and see if they could keep up. Our transition offense really got going; a lot of times there in the first half, we'd have such good passing and spacing up the floor that we'd take maybe one dribble and get a layup."
Still, Messer was left shaking his head afterward. Hiawatha outscored the Marcos 40-22 over the final 14 minutes, as junior point guard Panch Gonzalez Garcia started breaking containment and penetrating Polo's zone defense.
"I've never had a game where we won by 17 and it felt like we lost," Messer said. "We just didn't have a real good effort on defense, especially in the second half, and we need to be better than that if we want to keep going in the postseason."
The Marcos spread the wealth offensively, and 13 players saw extensive minutes. Zach Quaco, Brady Bushman and Brian Cavanaugh led the way with 14 points each, while fowards AJ Dollmeyer (12 points, 11 rebounds) and Austin Reeder (10 points, 11 rebounds) added double-doubles.
Polo shot 44.7 percent from the field (34-for-76), but that included an 0-for-14 night from 3-point range, and went 10-for-14 from the free-throw line. The Marcos had 17 assists and 17 turnovers.
"We've got a lot of people in our main rotation who know how to play their games well," Quaco said. "We go on surges, but when we get hot, we usually stay that way for a while. We've got a very athletic team, and tonight we were able to show that."
Hiawatha finished 32.4 percent (24-for-74), including 8-for-27 (29.6 percent) from beyond the arc, but six of those 3s came after halftime. Garcia finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and four steals, while Derek Ross had 13 points, 14 boards, three blocks and two steals.
"Our transition defense was pretty poor in the first half, and Polo made the most of it," first-year Hiawatha coach Danny Klein said. "But these kids have played hard for me all year, and we started running through our stuff and executing our offense better. We live and die by the 3, and it made a big difference when we finally started hitting some of those open looks in the second half."
The Marcos will face Forreston, a 44-42 winner over Pearl City in Tuesday night's other quarterfinal, in a semifinal matchup at 8 p.m. today. Eastland will play AFC in the first semi at 6 p.m.
Class 1A Polo Regional quarterfinal
Polo 78, Hiawatha 61
Star of the game: Zach Quaco, Polo, 14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals
Key performers: Panch Gonzalez Garcia, Hiawatha, 14 points, 10 rebounds; Derek Ross, Hiawatha, 13 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks; Brian Cavanaugh, Polo, 14 points; AJ Dollmeyer, Polo, 12 points, 11 rebounds; Austin Reeder, Polo, 10 points, 11 rebounds
Up next: Class 1A Polo Regional semifinal, Polo vs. Forreston, 8 p.m. today