POLO – "Eight." A simple name for a play that made a huge difference.
With its lead whittled from a dozen early in the fourth quarter to one, Polo coach Matt Messser called for the inbounds play named "eight" under the Forreston basket.
It worked to perfection, as Brady Bushman converted a three-point play that propelled the Marcos to a 65-54 win in the Class 1A Polo Regional semifinal matchup Wednesday night at Polo High School.
The Marcos (21-7) advance to a regional final showdown with Eastland (24-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Eastland defeated Polo 74-56 on Feb. 5 in Lanark.
On the play, Polo set up a triple screen on the left side of the free-throw lane. Bushman was by himself on the right wing, and Zach Quaco was inbounding the ball. Bushman took a jab step left, toward the triple screen, then bolted right, beating his man to the basket. Quaco hit Bushman in stride, and Bushman got the layup and was fouled. He added the free throw to give the Polo a 56-52 edge with 2:14 to play.
The Marcos outscored Forreston (15-13) 9-2 the rest of the way.
"We've only run that play like twice this season," said Bushman, who scored 13 points and had three steals. "I usually just loop, but I figured he would guard me tight, so I went for the layup."
"We only use that in certain situations, and we thought this was a good one," Messer said. "They hadn't really seen this one. It's a read for [Bushman]. He reads the defense. If he thinks he can get to the bucket and beat his man, he does."
The Marcos converted nine of 10 free throws in the final 1:07, with Quaco (12 points, 4 assists) going 6-for-6. He was 8-for-8 in the fourth quarter and 10-for-10 overall. Polo was 21-for-23 in the game.
Polo controlled the action much of the way, building a 51-39 advantage early in the fourth quarter, despite losing 6-foot-7 AJ Dollmeyer (20 points, 9 rebounds) and Brian Cavanaugh, each to their fourth foul, in the final minute of the third quarter.
The Cardinals used a 13-2 blitz to pull within a point. Sophomore Robert DeVries scored eight of his 19 points, which all came in the second half, in the flurry.
Forreston's tallest player to get on the floor was 6-foot-2 Nick Ludwig.
"We knew that they didn't have a post that could really stop me," Dollmeyer said. "But, we also knew they would double-team me. We did a good job of going to the high post, then going over the top."
The Cardinals' last lead was 14-12 in the first minute of the second quarter.
It was Polo's third straight win over their NUIC East foes this season.
Star of the game: AJ Dollmeyer, Polo, 20 points, 9 rebounds
Key performers: Robert DeVries, Forreston, 19 points, all in 2nd half; Brady Bushman, Polo, 13 points, 3 steals; Zach Quaco, Polo, 12 points, 10-for-10 FTs
Up next: Class 1A Polo Regional championship, Polo vs. Eastland, 7:30 p.m. Friday