LARRY LARKIN

Progress Correspondent



VERDIGRIS — Bidding to become the all-time Oklahoma boys high school basketball scoring leader, Verdigris' Rotnei Clarke moved into second place Thursday night with a 56-point performance against Pawhuska.

The No. 1-ranked Cardinals rolled to a 105-50 victory in the winners bracket of a Class 3A regional tournament.

The Verdigris Lady Cardinals also advanced while starting the evening off in the right manner for the vocal home crowd at the packed Jack Collins Field House. Going up against Newkirk, the Verdigris girls were near perfect in the first quarter and then cruised to a 62-40 triumph.

Clarke, with 3,557 points, now needs 83 more to pass leader Ty Harman and take over the top spot. A 1989 graduate of Maud, Harman finished his high school career with 3,639 points 19 years ago.

Entering Thursday's game, the Verdigris senior needed 29 to catch runnerup Kelenna Azubuike who had 3,530 for Tulsa Victory Christian before graduating in 2002.

Clarke needed only the first half to get the 29. The tiebreaker came less than a minute into the third quarter on a 3-point, 34-foot jumper. Fouled on his next trey attempt, he promptly sank three consecutive free throws.

During the first three periods, Clarke accounted for 14, 15, and 18 points. He added nine more in the fourth by hitting four of five shots from the field. Those came before he left the game with over five minutes left to play.

He had triple double with 56 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists



Both Verdigris teams will play their regional championship games at Sperry on Saturday night.

The Verdigris boys will play Eufaula, a 65-60 overtime winner over Holdenville.

The Verdigris girls also will play Eufaula, a 67-42 winner over Holdenville.

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Boys

While Clarke was continuing his climb up the points ladder, he had plenty of help from his teammates against Pawhuska as Verdigris improved to 22-3.

Adam Hollon, the Cardinals' 6-7 center, showed no signs of a sore back as he controlled the middle on both ends of the court. He finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds as Verdigris all but owned the boards with a 42-24 rebound margin.

DJ Sam and Aaron Sunday were consistent thorns to Pawhuska on defense and were able to work the ball around the perimeter when Verdigris had the ball. Sunday had eight points and Sam six. Sam had a season-high 15 rebounds.

The Huskies, 10-14, managed to remain within striking distance through the opening quarter. Once the second started, it was all over for the visitors. Verdigris outscored Pawhuska, 61-22, during the second and third quarters.

Austin Monroe came off the bench to hit a pair of 3-pointers for Verdigris once the starters departed. The second Monroe trey came with 1:12 left. It pushed Verdigris over the century mark for the second time this year.

The Huskies had nine players score with Blaine Culver leading the team with 16. A nonstarter, Culver hit four straight baskets in the final period for 10 of his total.

Despite using 13 different players, eight of whom played more than12 minutes each, coach Kelly Clarke's crew shot 55 percent from the field (43 of 78). They also tacked on 10 of 12 free throws.

Pawhuska had to settle for 37 percent (22 of 60) on field goals and 1 of 7 at the foul line.



Girls

While her big brother would later do his stuff, sister Cassie helped to make it a good night for the Clarke family.

She and Kait Heskett teamed to score all 22 of Verdigris' first-quarter points. They connected on their first seven shots and combined in the quarter for nine of 10.

It was the early push needed for coach Gary Kennemer and the Lady Cardinals as they improved to 18-7.

Verdigris led, 40-19, at halftime. Despite a scoring falloff in the third quarter, the Cardinals never let the visitors get closer than 15 points the rest of the way.

Clarke hit three treys in the opening period and added two of three more later on her way to a game-high 33 points. She was also perfect at the free throw line on eight tosses. For the game, she missed only one time. It came in the fourth quarter on her final shot from the field.

She was also the game's leading rebounder with 11.

Heskett, the team's top playmaker, finished with 17 points after her fast start with nine in the first period.

To assure the victory, Verdigris closed both halves with solid play from the offense and defense. The Lady Cardinals ended the second quarter with an 11-2 sprint, then closed the game by scoring the final eight points.

Kaylyn Pulley and CourtneyLandis each had 15 points for Newkirk.



VERDIGRIS 105, PAWHUSKA 50

Boys

Pawhuska 14 9 13 14 — 50

Verdigris 22 31 30 22 — 105

Pawhuska — Culver 16, Cass 11, Davis 6, garrison 5, Phillips 4, Oller 2, Patterson 2, Hull 2, Malone 2.

Verdigris — Clarke 56, Hollon 22, Sunday 8, Sam 6, Monroe 6, Culver 4, Whitmire 2, White 1.



VERDIGRIS 62, NEWKIRK 40

Girls

Newkirk 12 7 12 9 — 40

Verdigris 22 18 8 22 — 62

Newkirk — Pulley 15, Landis 15, Johnson 4, Scieber 4, Felix 2.

Verdigris — Clarke 33, K.Heskett 17, Brim 5, Stout 3, Schaub 2, M.Heskett 1, Nichols 1.