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Polo builds big halftime lead, but can’t hold off Durand in title tilt

Fast start, tough finish for Marcos

ASHTON – The first half belonged to Polo. The second half was all Durand – and the Bulldogs carried that into overtime, too.

Durand rallied from an 18-point halftime deficit to defeat the Marcos 55-45 in overtime in the championship game of the AFC Thanksgiving Tournament on Saturday night in Ashton.

“Credit Durand; they made all the plays down the stretch,” Polo coach Matt Messer said. “If we went by the first half, we deserved to win, but second half and overtime, they deserved the win.”

Polo (3-1) jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead in the game’s first 2½ minutes, and then used a 12-2 run over the final minute of the first quarter and opening 2 minutes of the second to build a 24-9 lead. Tucker Mumford started the surge with a runout layup, then hit a pair of 3-pointers later on, before Joey Bardell found Parker Wolber on a kickout pass for another 3 to cap the outburst.

The Marcos then went scoreless for the next 2 minutes, but Durand (4-0) didn’t make much headway. Brody Glawe banked in a 3 with 3:48 left in the second quarter to ignite a 9-0 Polo run to end the half. Jace Coffey turned a halfcourt steal into a layup, and Logan Kindle hit a turnaround jumper form the right baseline as the first-half buzzer sounded for a 33-15 lead.

“Polo’s tough, holy moly,” Durand coach Jason Stram said. “I did not expect them to start that fast, and I did not expect to be down at halftime. When I went in at halftime, I definitely was woke up, and I made sure my players got woke up.”

That alarm clock did the job for the Bulldogs. They outscored the Marcos 19-2 in the third quarter, opening it with back-to-back 3-pointers by Trenton Taylor and Justin Smith, then getting a putback from Jake Anderson, a coast-to-coast steal and layup from Taylor, and an Aidan Snider pull-up jumper in the lane to get within 35-34 heading into the fourth.

“They did a better job of getting themselves in transition and making sure they got back against our transition,” Messer said. “And then defensively, we had a couple of mental lapses, and offensively we tried to slow down the pace, and that’s my fault; we should’ve just kept going in our half-court, looking to attack.”

The Marcos tried to get back in that vein in the fourth, as Mumford hit a free throw, then took an inbounds pass from Colton Gunder and flicked it right back to Gunder for a 3-pointer and a 39-34 lead with 5:56 to play.

But Durand scored the next five points, forging its first tie since 0-0 on Smith’s 1-and-1 free throw makes with 3:20 to go.

Kindle then hit both ends of a 1-and-1 with 1:07 left for a 41-39 Polo lead, before Alex Montalvan’s putback tied it again with 48.8 seconds to play. Montalvan missed the free throw for the three-point play, but Durand got the rebound, and pulled the ball out to hold for the last shot.

With less than 10 seconds to play, Smith and Montalvan tried a give-and-go on the left wing, but Smith’s layup was waved off for a charging call, keeping the score tied at 41 with 5.7 seconds left.

Gunder dribbled the length of the court and put up a layup, but it was blocked out of bounds with 0.7 seconds left. Gunde then tossed a lob to Mumford right in front of the basket, but Mumford’s tip hit the rim in three places before bouncing out, forcing overtime.

“We had some shots that, I think, in a week or two we’re going to make,” Messer said. “Down the stretch, we got real tight.”

Durand took its first lead of the game in the first 5 seconds of overtime, as the opening tip ended uo in Smith’s hands right under the basket for a layup. A steal at halfcourt turned into a layup for Taylor, then Montalvan scored on a pretty spin move on the left low block before dishing post-to-post to Anderson for another point-blank bucket and a 49-41 lead with 2:12 remaining.

“All of our bigs did their job,” Stram said. “When Cam [Maines] and Aaron [Folk] are out there, that’s a bigger lineup and we’re in there to just bang bodies. We bring in Jake and Alex, we get a little faster, a little more athleticism. It’s a formula of success, as long as they utilize it the correct way.”

Bennett Soltow went coast-to-coast for a basket to cut Polo’s deficit to 49-43, but Smith hit both ends of a 1-and-1 before Montalvan scored down low again, pushing the margin to 10 with 35 seconds left.

“The kids came out in the second half ready to go, and made an incredible comeback,” Stram said. “Last year, we had multiple games where we were down 20+ points and we came back, but we just didn’t know how to win them. This year, with this group, they know how to win, and that’s the difference.”

Smith finished with 18 points, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks for Durand, while Taylor added 14 points, eight rebounds, three steals and two assists. Montalvan had eight points, 14 rebounds and three assists, and Anderson chipped in six points and seven boards.

Mumford led the Marcos with 13 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and two assists, with Coffey adding 10 points, six rebounds and three steals. Kindle finished with eight points, eight rebounds and two assists, Gunder had five points, seven rebounds and three steals, and Soltow nabbed a game-high five steals.

“We’re going to learn from this, I think, and that’s what I told the kids in the locker room afterward,” Messer said. “If you lose, as long as you learn from it, it can be a good thing.”

Boys basketball

AFC Tournament final

Durand 55, Polo 45, OT

Star of the game: Justin Smith, Dueand, 18 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks

Key performers: Tucker Mumford, Polo, 13 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists, 1 steal; Jace Coffey, Polo, 10 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals; Logan Kindle, Polo, 8 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists; Trenton Taylor, Durand, 14 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists; Alex Montalvan, Durand, 8 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists

Up next: Polo at Galena, 7 p.m. Thursday

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