Progress Sports Correspondent
OKLAHOMA CITY — The chase for a state championship came to an unkind end on Thursday night for the Verdigris Cardinals who fell to No. 2 ranked OKC Millwood 54-29 at the Moore High Arena.
Millwood, a perennial power in Class 3A, has captured 13 state titles since 1976 and finished as runner-up another six times.
Turning the ball over on their first three possessions of the contest, Verdigris fell behind 8-0 and appeared to have no answer for the Falcons speed, quickness and suffocating defense.
Austin Monroe broke the ice for the Cardinals with a slashing drive to the hoop that made the score 8-2 with 6:10 to play in the opening period. When the buzzer sounded, Verdigris trailed 16-8 after one.
The Cardinals fought back in the second stanza and chipped away at the Millwood lead. A Brian Phillips basket via a no-look assist from Monroe pulled Verdigris within 18-16 with 3:53 to play in the second.
Suddenly energized, Verdigris stood toe-to-toe with the Falcons and appeared to gain confidence and momentum heading to the halftime locker room. Millwood led 23-18.
Within five points at intermission, the Cardinals had committed eight first half turnovers, were 2-of-7 from the free throw line and had no three point baskets. Statistics that were ultimately their undoing.
Verdigris, desperately trying to run down the Falcons, opened the second half with another turnover and two failed scoring opportunities. Not the recipe for success coach Randy Upshaw drew up for the Cardinals at halftime.
Grabbing the chance at a knock-out blow, Millwood embarked on a 14-2 third quarter run that increased the Falcon lead to 37-20 with 1:50 remaining in the third.
The scrappy Cardinals had no answer and trailed 40-23 entering the final frame.
Cardinal junior Jake Culver opened the fourth quarter with a quick bucket that brought Verdigris within 40-25 and raised a glimmer of hope for the Verdigris faithful.
That glimmer of hope for the Cardinals, who fought until the bitter end, was short lived as Millwood raced away and put finishing touches on their 54-29 triumph.
Culver led Verdigris with 10-points followed by Monroe with 8-points while Brian Phillips added six. Brandon Swindall and Josh Turner took game
Scoring honors with 11-points each for the victorious Falcons.
The Cardinals finish their 2009-2010 campaign with an overall record of 25-5.
#2 OKC Millwood 54, #5 Verdigris 29
OKC MILLWOOD 16 7 17 14 =54
VERDIGRIS 8 10 5 6 =29
OKC Millwood (21-6) – Josh Turner 11, Brandon Swindall 11, Darius Gates 9, Michael Ervin 8, Kevonte Richardson 6, Walter Sledge, Jr. 5, Delford Robinson 4.
Verdigris (25-5) – Jake Culver 10, Austin Monroe 8, Brian Phillips 6, Brett Knaust 3, Corey Smith 2.