FORRESTON – Last week, Forreston beat Milledgeville by 18 points, then Milledgeville turned around and put a similar beating on Polo. Logic would dictate that Forreston would be a huge favorite against Polo, especially on its home court.
In a 68-51 win over the Cardinals, Polo proved that logic has no place in the topsy-turvy NUIC this season.
“We let Milledgeville’s two best players go off on us,” Polo coach Matt Messer said. “Our plan against Forreston was to not let their big three of [Brandon] Schneiderman, [Jaron] Groshans and [Braedon] Fyock do the same thing.”
Those three got their points, along with Sam Barkalow, but it was nowhere near the firepower put up by the Marco starting five of Braiden Soltow (19 points), Trevin Woodin (14), Brady Webb (12), Reid Taylor (12) and Justin Young (10).
“We could have done better, but even if we did, they were still better with five guys who can hit,” Forreston coach Jonathan Schneiderman said.
In a fast and furious first 6 minutes, both teams were tearing the nets up, shooting a combined 75 percent.
“At that pace, it was forecast to be a 90-point game for both of us,” Schneiderman said.
A Taylor shot at the buzzer broke a 19-19 tie and gave Polo (16-5, 4-1 NUIC East) a lead it would never relinquish. The shooting cooled down for a while, and then Polo broke the game wide open by scoring on 11 straight possessions from midway through the second quarter until early in the third.
“We’re hard to beat when we have balanced scoring,” Soltow said. “We have plenty of offense, but what really helped was being able to lock down on defense. We didn’t want three players beating us. We’ll let their role players try to do it instead.”
Woodin started the run with a 3-pointer, followed by a three-point play off a steal by Webb, a Taylor 3-pointer, and 10 points between Young and Soltow. That made it 43-23 at halftime, as Forreston could only muster four second-quarter points.
“We executed offensively, shared the ball, attacked the lane, and controlled the pace of the game,” Messer said.
After taking a 49-23 lead, Polo began to cool off a bit and Young got into foul trouble. Still, the Marcos finished at 64 percent shooting from the field.
The Cardinals (6-8, 3-3) were able to cut into the lead a bit, with Groshans driving the lane for most of his team-high 16 points. Barkalow, the 6-foot-6, 230-pound WIU football recruit, also did his part on the offensive boards, defending Young and adding eight points.
“Sam helped us out with his boards and buckets,” Scheiderman said.
Fyock and Schneiderman added 11 points each.
“They’re a whole different team with Schneiderman back,” Taylor said. “Forreston will be a dangerous team in our regional.”