The Polk County grind will continue to a state championship game.
Bolivar (29-4) defeated Parkway Central 63-41 Thursday evening at Mizzou Arena in Columbia in the Class 4 playoff semifinals. The win puts Bolivar in a boys basketball state championship game for the first time since 1960.
The Liberators are using the phrase “Polk County grind” throughout the playoffs as a motivational mantra. Senior Conley Garrison, who scored 22 points and hauled in 11 rebounds in Thursday’s win, explained the thought behind the phrase.
“It’s just doing the stuff when you don’t want to do it, doing it anyway, doing the best you can,” Garrison said. “Polk County—a lot of farmers, a lot of grinders, just blue-collar workers.”
Bolivar will face the reigning and defending Class 4 state champion Vashon (26-3) in Saturday’s final at 2:40 p.m. The Wolverines (26-3) beat Kearney 58-42 in the other Class 4 semifinal. Senior Brandon Emmert, who scored 24 points and had nine rebounds against Parkway Central, draws motivation from 2015, when Bolivar reached the state semifinals but ended up with a fourth-place finish.
Emmert is excited to be part of a class of six seniors who brought Bolivar to a state final for the first time since Dwight D. Eisenhower was president of the United States. A shot at the defending state champion is even better.
“It means the world,” Emmert said. “To be in that class with Vashon, it just makes it that much sweeter because we want this so bad.”
Parkway Central coach Rick Kirby was impressed with Bolivar’s two leading scorers.
“We knew that their big two were going to be difficult to guard, and that’s kind of what happened,” Kirby said. “Emmert really had a nice game. I think Garrison is a heck of a player.”
Bolivar started the semifinal game with an 11-0 run. The Liberators frequently got the basketball to 6-foot-6 Emmert on the blocks.
“My team really does a good job of getting me the ball. They know that if I can get the ball in the post, it really opens up the offense for everybody else. We really thrive on getting good shots,” Emmert said.
Emmert drawing double teams is just another part of the grind.
“I can’t say enough about my team. We come in every day and work hard, do all the little things that add up to be big things—the guys aren’t necessarily going to end up on the stat chart,” Emmert said. “They are a big part of our success, and I can’t thank them enough for that.”
In addition to “Polk County grind,” Bolivar has a second mantra, “effort, attitude, teammate: E.A.T.”
“Be a good teammate, have a good attitude and play as hard as you can. Those are things that are getting us to where we want to be,” Emmert said.
Asked about the chance to coach in a state championship game, a normally composed Liberators coach Robby Hoegh showed some emotion and some tears.
“We’re going to keep doing what we do. These guys are more than basketball players, and so the big thing is we just want to enjoy this,” Hoegh said.
Bolivar will meet a balanced Vashon team with four players with double-digit scoring averages. Hoegh said his squad from Polk County won’t be intimidated.
“Vashon is awesome. We know that. Everybody here is awesome. We’re going to go out and we’re going to just eat. We’re going to give great efforts, we’re going to have great attitudes and we’re going to be great teammates. The results you can’t always control, but you can always control that thing, and to me, that’s what I’m most proud of,” Hoegh said.
The 1959-1960 Bolivar Liberators went 30-4 under coach Bob Brown and won the Class M state championship by beating Troy Buchanan 50-38 at Brewer Fieldhouse in Columbia.
High school boys basketball Class 4 playoff semifinal
Bolivar 63, Parkway Central 41
At Mizzou Arena, Columbia
Parkway Central 10-15-7-9—41
Bolivar—Brandon Emmert 24, Conley Garrison 22, Connor Sechler 6, Corey Spindler 6, Ian Jones 3, Hunter Jones 2
Parkway Central—Deandre Campbell 16, D’arius Ramsey 5, Cory Rice 5, Art Green 4, Devion Harris 4, Jayden Littlejohn 3, Devin Rice 2, Nate Moore 2.