SPERRY — They came to see The Star. The Shooting Star.
They left talking about The Next Big Thing.
The Rotnei Clarke Show rolled into Sperry Friday night, and the curiosity seekers arrived by the hundreds.
To say that they left disappointed might be a little strong.
But Clarke did not have the anticipated Rotnei Clarke-like game, did not put up the Rotnei Clarke-like numbers.
Shoot, he just scored 65 points three nights before. And he had averaged 49.4 points over his last five games.
This is the state’s defending scoring champion for a season, and he’s trying to become the all-time pointmaker in Oklahoma high school basketball.
He had an off-night Friday night.
He scored 36.
Still, he did help the Cardinals waylay Sperry, 95-52. That much the huddled masses expected.
What they did not expect was 36 points from Clarke.
Nor did they expect to see Verdigris freshman Jake Culver do everything he could to steal the spotlight from Clarke.
Culver, a 6-3 reserve post player, scored 20 points and pulled down 15 rebounds. He did not miss a shot from the field. He made 10 of his 13 free throws. Besides Clarke, he was the only player in the game who was putting points on the board in every quarter.
In the lobby and in the parking lot after the game, the same people who usually talk about Rotnei Clarke were talking about Jake Culver.
And, Culver had a game that would merit being mentioned in the same conversation as Clarke.
It was the other Clarke, Cassie Clarke, who had the full attention of the crowd in the girls game.
The junior sister of Rotnei Clarke, Cassie scored 23 points — all in three quarters — and then watched as the reserves finished off Sperry, 79-41.
Verdigris won its 12th straight game and enhanced its position as the No. 1 Class 3A team in the state, according to the basketball coaches’ poll for OKrankings.com.
The tone of the game was established early, although no one in the Rotnei Clarke Watch Party could have appreciated it at the time.
In the first three minutes of the game, all five Verdigris starters had scored. It was 14-4 at that point.
Usually, Clarke has the majority of points in every quarter, and he did Friday night, but on this occasion, all his teammates got in on the scoring act.
Particularly, the freshman Culver.
His scoring was good, but his shooting numbers were better.
But hitting five of five field goals, he set a lofty standard for the starters to reach. And, they almost matched him .
Paul Hollon, Cole Overholt, Aaron Sunday and D.J. Sam were a combined 14 of 18 from the field.
Even the great Rotnei Clarke couldn’t match those numbers. He was eight for 14 from 2-point range, five for 10 from 3-point range, and a very uncharacteristic five of 12 on free throws.
He displayed his all-around game on one play late in the second quarter. Going to his left with the ball after he had crossed mid-court, Clarke somehow spotted Hollon close to the basket some 40 feet or so away. Clarke flipped the ball underhanded toward the goal, in alley-oop fashion, right on target. Hollon stretched tall to retrieve the ball and dropped it in the basket at the apex of his jump.
That one assist should have been worth the price of admission for the Rotnei Clarke Watchers.
He left the game for the final minute of the second quarter, prior to halftime. And, he went to the bench for good with 3:22 remaining in the game, with the Cardinals on top, 90-44.
The last time he and Verdigris took on Sperry, he scored 40 in an 85-38 walkover a couple of weeks ago.
Verdigris (19-3) and Sperry (6-13) will meet again this week in the 3A district tournament, again in Sperry.
Cassie Clarke enabled Verdigris to post its 11th straight win without working up much of a sweat.
A dozen of her teammates scored, and the starters scored virtually at will.
Julia Mitchell, Andi Nichols, Kait Heskett and Meg Heskett combined to hit 10 of 18 field-goal attempts, including four of eight from beyond the 3-point arc. Kait Heskett was three for five on treys, all in the third quarter.
Clarke scored 11 points in the first period, helping the Lady Cardinals open a 17-6 gap. She finished with 10-of-16 shooting, to go along with her five rebounds.
The Verdigris lead reached 23 in the second period, and by that point, the reserves steadily creeping onto the floor.
Verdigris, which bounced Sperry, 63-32, in their first meeting, strangled the Sperry offense at the outset of every quarter.
In the first, second and fourth periods, Sperry did not score for 3 1/2 minutes. In the third, the Lady Pirates managed to score after only 2 1/2 minutes. That’s 13 minutes, almost two full quarters, that Sperry could not score on the Lady Cardinals.
At halftime, the Lady Pirates had 14 points — and 14 turnovers.
Cassity Torix scored 20 points for Sperry, but 14 of those came in the second half when most of the Verdigris reserves were on the floor. She had seven against all reserves in the fourth quarter.
VERDIGRIS 79, SPERRY 41
Verdigris 17 20 22 20 — 79
Sperry 6 8 16 11 — 41
Verdigris — Clarke 23, M.Heskett 12, K.Heskett 9, Schaub 7, Stout 5, Hahn 5, Dargel 4, Mitchell, Brim 3, Garrett 3, Nichols 2, Crow 2, Swopes 1.
Sperry — Torix 20, Goolsby 5, Nelson 5, Haas 4, Mizell 3, Bryant 2, Wheeler 2.
VERDIGRIS 95, SPERRY 52
Verdigris 28 29 20 18 — 95
Sperry 9 15 12 16 — 52
Verdigris — Clarke 36, Culver 20, Hollon 18, Overholt 9, Sunday 7, Sam 2, Bernier 2, Whitmire 1.
Sperry — Teel 10, Apodaca 8, Battiest 7, Winters 7, Dowling 7, Fazendine 5, Wolf 4, Juby 2, C.Smith 2.