LANARK – One team’s dream can be another team’s nightmare, and that was the case Wednesday night for the Polo and Newman girls basketball teams.
They split regular-season games, and the rubber match was in a semifinal at the Class 1A Eastland Regional. On paper, the Comets were the favorite. They were riding an eight-game winning streak, while the Marcos lost one of their top players, junior forward Alex Dusing, to a knee injury in Tuesday's quarterfinal against Morrison.
Once the ball was tipped, however, it was all Polo. The Marcos dominated from the beginning and rolled to a 68-45 victory that left most of those in attendance stunned one way or another.
“I had a dream [Tuesday] night it was going to come down to one shot and we had the ball,” Polo coach Jeff Grobe said. “Then I woke up. Really, I thought it would be within five points. We couldn’t turn the ball over, and we needed to shoot lights out. … Everyone knows their roles. Everyone did an awesome job. I’m ecstatic, and I hope the girls are, because they worked their butts off for this.”
Leading the way for Polo (14-15) was junior guard Mallory Patterson, who drained 7 of 11 3-pointers on her way to a game-high 23 points.
“We practiced in homeroom and I was off,” Patterson said of an earlier Wednesday shooting session, “and then I came here and I was on. It’s a day-by-day thing.”
Patterson was far from a one-woman show. Marah Blake finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds, Harper Clark came off the bench for nine points, Lindee Poper had eight points and nine boards, Becca Wagner had seven points and 10 rebounds, and Nicole Boelens added six points and nine boards.
The Marcos had a size advantage inside, and they made the most of it.
“Our coach talked a lot about it, so that was a big thing for us,” Blake said. “If it wasn’t there, we’d just kick it out to the guards. It was all working tonight.”
Newman’s Bella Trancoso hit a 3 at the end of the first quarter to get her team to within 11-7, and a basket from Macaire Brown, off a nifty feed from Josie Rank, gave the Comets (20-9) a short-lived 15-14 lead with 4:10 remaining in the second quarter.
Patterson responded with a short jumper and a 3-pointer in the next 2 minutes, and the Marcos were in charge the rest of the way. They led 24-20 at halftime, then scored the first seven points of the third quarter on buckets from Wagner and Blake, and a 3 from Boelens.
Newman got within 33-27 after a 3 from Rank, only to see Polo close the quarter with an 18-4 surge to seize a 51-31 lead entering the final quarter.
The Marcos’ biggest lead was 28 points (63-35) after a free throw from Clark with 5:31 to go. The Comets’ Brown then produced a three-point play to help prevent a running clock the rest of the way.
Newman was an ice-cold 17-for-76 from field, including 4-for-25 from 3-point range. Alejandra Padilla paced the Comets with 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Rank added 11 points and eight boards.
Head coach Joe Salvatori noted his club was unable to get its transition game in gear, mainly because the Marcos were making so many shots. Polo was 26-for-66 overall, including 12-for-25 from long distance.
“They scored, so it’s hard to get the ball out on a fast break,” Salvatori said. “They were bigger than us, and tonight, they were tougher than us. I give credit to Polo. They wanted the ball more and fought well. And they hit 12 3s – you can’t guard all of them.”
Now the Marcos face the tall task of tangling with Eastland on the Cougars’ turf Friday night, with a regional championship on the line. Eastland won both regular-season meetings between the teams.
“Their defensive pressure is unreal,” Grobe said. “We have one night to work on that, and we’ll see what we do. That’s why they play the games.”
“We haven’t done very well against them so far, but we played very well tonight,” Blake added. “Hopefully we can carry that over to Friday.”
1A Eastland Regional semifinal
Polo 68, Newman 45
Star of the game: Mallory Patterson, Polo, 23 points, 7-for-11 3-pointers
Key performers: Marah Blake, Polo, 13 points, 14 rebounds; Alejandra Padilla, Newman, 13 points, 11 rebounds
Up next: Eastland Regional championship game, Eastland vs. Polo, 7 p.m. Friday