COLUMBIA – Bolivar captured hearts in Polk County.
The Liberators came up one game short of winning the state of Missouri. Bolivar fell 44-32 to Vashon Saturday afternoon at Mizzou Arena in Columbia in the boys basketball Class 4 state championship game. Bolivar made its first boys basketball state final appearance since 1960.
Daniel “Peanut” Farris led Vashon with 16 points.
Bolivar finishes the season 28-5, but coach Robby Hoegh isn’t interested in counting losses.
“You only lose a game when they take a person’s heart. No one has taken these guys’ heart. They are all heart and I couldn’t be prouder to be their coach,” Hoegh said.
Vashon used stingy defense to limit Bolivar to just 10 first-half points and 22 in the second half. Bolivar senior Brandon Emmert scored 18 points, and senior Conley Garrison scored 12 points.
“The kids did everything they were supposed to do, so when the ball doesn’t fall our way, we still made great effort, we still were great teammates and we still had winning attitudes all the way through,” Hoegh said.
Vashon coach Tony Irons put an emphasis on the Wolverines defending the perimeter.
“One of the keys to the game was if we can control how many threes they made in this game,” Irons said. “We try to pride ourselves on being a team that is defensive oriented. We spend 90 percent of our practice on defensive things.”
Bolivar turned in a cold shooting performance from beyond the arc, going 2-for-16 in attempted 3-pointers.
“If we lose taking the shots we took, I’m completely fine with that because we got some good looks and we took the shots we were supposed to take. They just didn’t quite fall,” Hoegh said.
The Bolivar players and coaches made their motto “Polk County grind,” popular among students and supporters. The phrase means doing the little things that sometimes aren’t fun in order to succeed in sports. Emmert hopes the phrase won’t leave with the graduation of six seniors in May.
“It hurts right now, but I know that the guys below us are just going to keep Polk County grinding, just keep up where we left off. There are so many guys in the room that have us helped us, all of us seniors get to where we are today, and I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done,” Emmert said.
Emmert came up with an interesting way to describe how the Polk County grind played out to 28 wins and a trip to the state final.
“Like a wet towel, we wrung out every bit of it, every bit of this season. Every last drop of it came out,” Emmert said.
Hoegh, who unexpectedly lost his father in December, said he coached through the season with a different perspective. He appreciates what he called a true meaning of sports.
“It’s about what these guys had. It’s about being a good teammate. It’s about caring for one another. It’s about being humble, and that’s what these guys do,” Hoegh said.
Garrison said afterward that he wasn’t sore about finishing in second place.
“I think it’s hard because the season is over, not that we lost. We don’t get to spend the time with these guys anymore,” Garrison said.
The win for Vashon marks the 10th time the Wolverines have won a state championship, and the second for coach Irons.
High school boys basketball Class 4 state championship
Vashon 44, Bolivar 32
At Mizzou Arena, Columbia
Bolivar—Brandon Emmert 18, Conley Garrison 12, Hunter Jones 2
Vashon—Daniel Farris 16, Koray Gilbert 8, Joseph Reece 8, Levi Stockard 5, Casey Cody-Jackson 5, Mario McKinney 2.