Bolivar's 'amazing' sophomore Kyle Pock carries Liberators to state semifinal victory
In the first half of Thursday afternoon's Class 5 semifinal game, Bolivar sophomore Kyle Pock wasn't getting the looks he liked.
He finished the half with only three points with the same number of fouls. The Liberators trailed by five at the break.
In the second half, he found he was freed up a little bit and he took what the defense gave him.
"I was able to do what I do," he said.
What he did was score the Liberators' seven points en route to 23 second-half points. His 3-pointer with 4:04 left in the game gave Bolivar a lead that it never gave back.
Pock's legendary performance gave Bolivar (16-12) a 61-51 win over Lutheran South (16-12) on Thursday afternoon at JQH Arena. The Liberators will play in Friday's Class 5 state championship game against the winner of Thursday's afternoon game between Cardinal Ritter and Van Horn.
"There's a reason Power 5 programs are contacting us," Bolivar head coach Robby Hoegh said. "He's an amazing player."
A championship appearance is the second in Bolivar history. In 1960, the Liberators defeated Troy Buchanan.
The win helps advance a Bolivar team that didn't have a winning record heading into the postseason. Now the Liberators are a win away from winning it all.
"They need to soak up every moment," Hoegh said. "They're a very 'juiceful' team and that means that they don't take the credit — special people who make other people feel special. We hope that people can see a team that loves each other and that is unified beyond this season."
The Liberators had plenty of moments to soak up on Thursday.
Although the first half was a bit of a struggle, it only made the story that much better. Lutheran South's Austin Reis caught fire from beyond the arch for four 3's and 13 points. Pock's foul troubles limited him with junior Josh Bowes leading the way with 10 points.
What Pock did in the second half was nothing short of spectacular.
The sophomore scored the Liberators' first seven points while chipping into the Lancers' lead. He got to the basket — either making some difficult layups or getting fouled. He hit a second 3-pointer and finished the game a perfect 12-for-12 from the line.
After hitting the go-ahead triple, Reis made a bucket to make it a one-point game. Pock kept attacking to get to the free throw line to make a pair. On the Liberators' next trip down the floor, the sophomore attacked the basket, got fouled and made the bucket to go up six with two-and-a-half minutes to go.
"The guy said 'here guys, we're not going to lose this game,'" Hoegh said. "It's the leadership, the rebounding, the play. I love this other stuff. What else can I say? He's incredible. He makes the game easier for the other guys. He's a better person, man. I can't say enough about Kyle's play, but he's also an incredible teammate."
Pock, who holds an offer from Missouri State and is in contact with Creighton and Purdue, finished the game with 26 points on 6-of-12 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and a pair of assists. Bowes finished the game with 13 points and four rebounds.
Pock might only be a sophomore, but he has the Liberators in a position to win a state title. It appears he's going to have them in a similar position for years to come.
"It's pure excitement," Pock said. "We're still not satisfied. It's a breath of fresh air and we'll be ready for the championship."
Wyatt D. Wheeler is a reporter and columnist with the Springfield News-Leader. You can contact him at 417-371-6987, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter at @WyattWheeler_NL. You can subscribe to his free "Bears Beat" newsletter on News-Leader.com. He's also the co-host of Sports Talk on Jock Radio weekdays from 4-6 p.m.