LANARK – For 8 minutes, Amboy did everything right to try to keep up with Polo.
The next 24 minutes were a mess of turnovers and poor shooting for the Clippers, while the Marcos took advantage with a crushing press for wide-open 3s and layups in transition for an 83-45 win at the Eastland Holiday Tournament.
“They’re just so quick. It looked like we’d have an open pass and they would intercept it,” Amboy coach Josh Glawe said of Polo. “They’re long and fast. They’re a difficult team.”
Amboy (3-6) actually looked like the faster team for the majority of the first quarter, as the Clippers used a 10-2 run to jump out to a 17-10 lead.
Justin Hart drove into the lane for a layup and split a pair of free throws, Mitchell McLaughlin hit a jumper, Hart nailed a 3, and Reece Vaessen found Hunter Zimmerly underneath for an easy layup.
“The first quarter was what I was hoping to see at this tournament,” Glawe said. “We’ve been preaching to them that we can hang with teams, but they have to play together.”
Then came the Marcos’ first onslaught.
Over the final 1:30 of the first, Brady Webb connected on a floater and a 3, and Braiden Soltow made a layup at the buzzer to tie it at 17.
Polo’s run reached 11 straight points just 45 seconds into the second quarter after Soltow stole a pass and hit a layup. He then swiped another steal and threw a pass behind his head to Webb, who dished a no-look assist to Trevin Woodin for a layup.
“We know our passing lanes very well on the fast break,” Webb said. “It’s just my job to see it and create for my teammates.”
Soltow hit a jumper, and Reid Taylor made two free throws as the Marcos’ run reached 15-0.
Zimmerly interrupted the run with a jumper at the 4:01 mark of the second, only to watch Polo score the next 16 points.
Woodin hit a turnaround jumper, Taylor recorded a putback, Justin Young made a layup, Soltow split a pair of free throws after picking up another steal and drawing an intentional foul, Woodin sank a 3, Webb drained a pair of foul shots, and Soltow and Taylor each made a layup after steals.
Hart made two free throws for Amboy, but Webb ran down the court and subsequently swished a 3 to cap a second quarter in which the Marcos outscored the Clippers 26-4. Polo swiped nine steals, while Amboy had 12 turnovers.
So why such a drastic change in Polo’s favor?
“It was our intensity,” Young said. “We were a little sloppy on defense in the first quarter. We just had to get some stops so we could get into our transition.”
“Our offense comes naturally to us, so it’s all about defense,” Webb said. “It’s about locking in for all four quarters, and if we can do that, we should be in good shape.”
Polo (13-3) recorded steals on four straight possessions at the start of the third quarter, as it put the game well out of reach up 68-36 after three. The Marcos’ reserves even won the fourth quarter 15-9.
Polo finished with 20 assists on 34 field goals, as nine players had at least one. The Marcos also had 17 steals, and forced 22 Amboy turnovers. The rebounding battle was also lopsided, as Polo outrebounded Amboy 37-21.
Webb scored a team-high 17 points for the Marcos, while also picking up four assists and three steals. Young was the beneficiary of several fast-break opportunities, and he finished with 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting, six rebounds, an assist, two steals and three blocks.
“We’ve got good guards to get it in [to the post],” Young said. “It feels good. We have great ball movement as a team. We work well.”
Woodin had 14 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals, while Soltow again stuffed the stat sheet with 13 points, five boards, four assists and six steals. Taylor added six points, six rebounds, an assist, three steals and a pair of blocks for Polo.
Since two losses at the Forreston Tournament to Newman and Lena-Winslow, the Marcos have bounced back not because of athleticism on offense, but rather better effort on defense.
“I think we responded really well, and it started with the Eastland game,” Polo coach Matt Messer said. “Since then, it’s been our defense. Even in the Byron game, we had a bad first quarter, then locked in. Same thing with the Eastland game, and the other games here.”
Amboy shot just 33 percent (17-for-52) for the game, and was led by Hart’s game-high 18 points. McLaughlin added 12 points, and Zimmerly chipped in nine points and eight boards.
Eastland Holiday Tournament
Polo 83, Amboy 45
Star of the game: Justin Young, Polo, 16 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals, 1 assist
Key performers: Brady Webb, Polo, 17 points, 4 assists, three steals; Trevin Woodin, Polo, 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals; Braiden Soltow, Polo, 13 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 steals; Justin Hart, Amboy, 18 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals
Up next: Eastland tournament – Polo vs. Aquin/Fulton, 6 p.m.; Amboy vs. ? time, both today