MILLEDGEVILLE – Both the Polo Marcos and Milledgeville Missiles struggled to find the bottom of the net in their NUIC East showdown Wednesday night.
But in the end, the rough, grind-it-out game wound up favoring the Missiles in a 42-31 home victory.
Polo (1-14, 1-4 NUIC East) struck first, jumping out to a 4-0 lead 2 minutes into the game. Milledgeville (5-13, 2-3 NUIC East) responded with back-to-back layups by Taylor Grenoble, as she beat everyone down the floor for both.
However, the Marcos took the lead at 9-8 into the second quarter.
“We have been having trouble with enthusiasm,” Polo coach Jeff Grobe said. “I thought we came out with a lot of enthusiasm tonight. We got after loose balls, rebounded well, and got the ball up the court.”
As the Missiles struggled on the offensive end, the Marcos took advantage with their attack. They showed strong balance, getting points in the paint, from the perimeter, and from the free-throw line.
A 3-pointer from Polo junior Madison Merdian with less than 3 minutes left until half gave the Marcos momentum. More importantly, it helped them secure a 20-15 lead going into the locker room.
The game took on a whole new life in the second half. As the intensity from both sides picked up, so did the Missiles’ attack – on both ends of the court.
Milledgeville held the Marcos scoreless in the third quarter, and scored 11 points of its own to completely turn the game around.
A seamless spin-move putback basket by Missile senior Kendra Schave gave her team momentum, and got the crowd into it. More importantly, it helped her team take a 26-20 lead into the fourth.
“In the first half,” Missile coach Kyle Knutti said, “we settled for too many outside shots. In the second half, we made a point to get to the basket. Try to force them to make plays, and it was a lot more successful. It opened up a lot on the court.”
A bucket by junior KeeLey Meyer on the Marcos’ first possession was a foreshadow of what was to come in the final 8 minutes. Meyer scored nine of her team’s 11 points in the final quarter, almost all off of post-ups down on the block.
Meyer’s effort helped cut the deficit down to four points at 29-25 with under 3 minutes to play.
As the game wore on, each loose ball and rebound became more and more crucial. Unfortunately for the Marcos, the Missiles won more of these battles. This, combined with Milledgeville making free throws in the fourth quarter, sealed the deal in the scrappy rivalry game.
“That is Missile basketball,” Knutti said. “It has been since I played here 15 years ago. Missile basketball is too short, too weak, but go out there and bust your butt, get every loose ball. That’s the culture that I am trying to get. We need to play this way in order to be more successful against some of the more talented teams.”
Senior Courtney Swalve led the Missiles from the foul line in the fourth, as she went a perfect 8-for-8.
Meyer led all players with 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Marcos.
“In the second half, the ball just didn’t go in the hoop,” Grobe said. “It happens. I was very happy with our effort, and we’ll build off this. We’re going to see them again, and we’ll be ready for them.”
Milledgeville 42, Polo 31
Star of the Game: KeeLey Meyer, Polo, 15 points, 13 rebounds
Key Performers: Courtney Swalve, Milledgeville, 10 points, 4 rebounds. Jenna Bibler, Milledgeville, 5 points, 11 rebounds