POLO – Bodies were flying everywhere, player after player making gutty efforts – and when the dust settled, it was Milledgeville holding on for a 76-71 win over Polo in a game with regional seeding implications, NUIC title hopes, and blacktop bragging rights.
“What a fun game to watch,” Milledgeville coach Brad Grenoble said. “It was a great atmosphere, the fans got into it, and both teams gave it their all.”
It was the Missiles’ second win over Polo, and one that Grenoble hopes will give his team a No. 2 or at worst No. 3 in the sub-sectional behind Newman.
“We’re playing at our best right now,” Grenoble said. “If we can continue to win the ones we should, we should be a good shape for a 2 or 3 regional seed.”
It didn’t come without a fight. Milledgeville led 60-45 heading into the fourth quarter, but the Marcos made 11 out of 12 shots to close the gap to 72-70 with a minute left.
Brady Webb, who left the game midway through the fourth quarter with injury, keyed the rally with 11 points in the final period. He was able to return in the final minutes, but Milledgeville’s man-to-man defense stiffened just enough to hold Polo to only one point in the last three possessions.
“We never gave up,” Polo coach Matt Messer said. “That’s a championship mentality, and a credit to the kids. They never got down.”
Not only that, but the Marcos were missing post player Justin Young, who is out for at least 2 weeks with an ankle injury. His return is questionable, with hopes of being back in time for the regional.
Without Young to worry about, the Missiles were able to ramp up their defensive pressure, and the player that felt it the most was Trevin Woodin,
who had 30 points in Polo’s game against AFC on
Kyle Ottens held Woodin to only two baskets until less than a minute remained in the third quarter.
“I got him because I’m the longest guard, and we needed to take the 3 away,” said Ottens, who has 8 inches of height on Woodin.
The 6-foot-2 senior also had 21 points and made several key assists to running mate Cade Schave (20 points).
“My teammates did a good job of getting open,” Ottens said.
Braiden Soltow took on Ottens and Webb did the same with Schave, but the longer the game went on, the more effective the two Missiles were.
“They tried a triangle-and-two on Schave and Ottens,” Grenoble said. “It worked for awhile, but they’re going to get their points.”
With Schave held scoreless in the first quarter and Ottens with four points, it was Blayne Kappes and Carson Boyer combining to shoot 7-for-10 from beyond the arc to take Milledgeville from a 4-0 deficit to a 25-10 lead in only 4 minutes time.
“Both guys got it rolling,” Grenoble said. “Blayne is starting to feel better from an injury. When he starts making shots, you’re in trouble.”
Schave and Ottens picked up the slack midway through the second quarter, and the Missiles went to halftime up 40-26.
Lane Hopkins, Young’s replacement, made a couple of big plays under the basket, and Reid Taylor added points, but the Marcos struggled to make baskets down low.
“We left at least 12-14 points on missed shots under the basket,” Messer said.
Four straight free throws by Ottens and Jack Munz sealed the victory for Milledgeville. Kappes had 16 points, and Boyer 12 to back up Ottens and Schave.
For Polo, it was Webb leading the way with 24 points on several drives to basket in traffic. Taylor had 14 points, Hopkins 12, and Woodin 11.
“I can’t complain. This was a good high-school basketball that was played by both teams,” Messer said.
In a statistical anomaly, both team shot 27-for-56 from the field.