A big run late in the first quarter and another dominating stretch in the third helped Polo claim first place in the AFC Thanksgiving Tournament on Nov. 24 with a 67-34 win over the host Raiders.
The Marcos led 9-6 midway through the first before going on a 13-0 run to close out that quarter and start the next. Polo led 36-21 at halftime, then outscored the Raiders 24-6 in the third quarter, a stretch that saw a 15-0 Polo run.
“We were just playing our defense,” Polo guard Braiden Soltow said. “We were trying to get steals and get into the open court, push the ball.”
Both of those runs were fueled by defense. Soltow had a steal that led to a Brady Webb 3-pointer during the first-quarter run. The third quarter saw a pair of Soltow steals and another by Lane Hopkins in a three-possession stretch, followed closely by another three-possession stretch where Soltow, Webb and Justin Young all got steals.
During the first-quarter run, four different players got in on the scoring. It was five different players doing the scoring during the third-quarter run.
“We were actually spreading the court, getting out on the break,” Marcos coach Matt Messer said. “It’s what we do best. We were a little sluggish to get going. We were running the court, but not spreading it. I felt once we started spreading it, it was really hard for [AFC] to keep that pace up.”
AFC had 31 second-half possessions, of which 16 ended in turnovers; 13 of those were Polo steals.
“We started to generate some [steals and rebounds], but it wasn’t really until the third quarter that we really locked it down and iced the game,” Messer said.
Polo (4-0) celebrated not only a tournament win, but also a milestone. Young had 21 points in the game to put him over 1,000 for his career. The milestone basket came with 6:20 left in the third quarter on a basket in the paint. Young shot 10-for-12 from the field for the game, with all of his points coming in the paint except for the one he got from the free-throw line.
“It was a personal goal I’ve had ever since I was a little kid,” he said. “Being able to be there with all the great players of the past means a lot.”
Young came into the game with 986 career points. He had six points in the first quarter, hitting a basket in the paint and scoring twice on putbacks. With another basket later in the first quarter, he had eight of Polo’s first 13 points in the game. He came into the second half needing three points, then hit a basket in the paint on Polo’s third possession of the third quarter, and converted a Hopkins steal into two more points moments later.
“It’s just really great for a great kid and a humble kid who puts in the time and the work to get that kind of reward,” Messer said.
Young was able to benefit from his teammates’ 3-point shooting, which drew the attention of the defense and opened some things up for him in the paint.
“We have a team of great 3-point shooters,” Young said. “It’s nice for [our team] to score from pretty much anywhere.”
The Raiders (2-2) tried to keep pace with the up-tempo Marcos, and were able to for short stretches. In the second quarter, Calvin Jahn knocked down a 3-pointer, followed closely by an Ethan Drew jumper, a Dan Hoffman hook shot, and a steal and layup from Drew.
“We’re both up-tempo teams, so we definitely embraced it,” AFC coach Scott Stevens said. “They got the best of the transition game today, and we saw the fine line between craziness and in-control transition. I supported that because I think we need to learn to cope with a team that wants to do that. I’m proud of my guys for the way that they responded and the heart that they had.”
But that run only got the Raiders within nine, and Polo answered with a three-point play by Young and a three-point play and 3-pointer by Webb. Coupled with steals by Young and Hopkins, the lead was soon back to 16 points.
“We really just try to pressure the ball at all times,” Soltow said. “Then when we’re one away, we try and deny. We’re always just hunting steals and trying to get out in our fast break and get our offense going.”