There were so many high school basketball coaches, retired and active, in the Verdigris stands Saturday night that it could have been mistaken for a coaches’ clinic.
Instead, the Verdigris basketball teams were the ones putting on the clinic.
With Cassie Clarke at the chalkboard, the Lady Cardinals gave Oologah a lesson in second-half domination. When class was dismissed, Verdigris had posted a 63-42 grade.
The Verdigris boys almost missed the bell. Oologah played the part of the playground bully, opening up seven-point leads in the third period before Rotnei Clarke, D.J. Brown and Adam Hollon turned in their homework.
They passed the Oologah test with a spirited two-minute presentation that resulted in a 76-69 final reading.
On a night when few games were scheduled, and Oologah and Verdigris were the lone Rogers County teams playing, a near-capacity crowd gathered in the Jack Collins Complex gym. A dozen or so current and former coaches were in attendance ... mute testimony to the star quality of players and teams on the floor.
The coaches could not have been disappointed.
Cassie Clarke scored 27 points, with a brilliant three-point shooting touch, as the Verdigris girls remained on their undefeated course.
And then, Rotnei Clarke prevailed in a surreal shootout with Jeff White. Clarke scored 39 points for the second night in a row, while White unloaded six three-pointers in his 24-point flurry.
Coach Gary Kennemer challenged his Lady Cardinals at halftime. And they responded.
Oologah was shooting at a 58-percent pace (7 of 12) in the second period while building a 29-26 halftime lead.
Kennemer addressed those figures in his intermission expressions to his team. “You’re an undefeated team and you’re getting beat in your own house,” he told the Lady Cardinals. “Oologah owns this place. They own you.”
The Lady Cardinals turned it around in the third quarter. And took back their home.
Cassie Clarke hit four treys in four attempts, and counted 18 of her teamís 23 points in the period to sufficiently thwart the Oologah aggression.
With Tiffani Nelms, Kait Heskett and Meg Heskett harassing the Oologah ballhandlers into six turnovers and a 2-for-15 shooting quarter, Verdigris worked with precision and determination.
Oologah was unable to score back-to-back baskets at any time in the second half.
In the third quarter, the Cassie Clarke quarter, Verdigris won every skirmish, every battle.
And in the fourth quarter, by the time Clarke had cooled, Nelms and Kait Heskett assumed control of the offense. Nelms counted seven points and Heskett added six before the reserves began checking into the game.
Defensively, Verdigris put the clamps on the Lady Mustangs. They managed only two baskets in the fourth quarter, and committed 13 turnovers, although many of those came with their reserves.
Clarke, the 6-0 sophomore, finished with 10 rebounds, and 5-6 Kait Heskett had nine.
Junior Lachelle Hotfelt scored 14 to lead Oologah, and junior teammate Cassidee Young pulled in seven rebounds.
Verdigris won its ninth game without a loss. Oologah, playing its first game since Dec. 19, is 3-6.
For 3 1/2 quarters, this was a classic shootout.
Clarke and White took their turns, from close range and long. Then Jordan Barrett and Jared Semkoff of Oologah tried their hands. So did Adam Hollon and Issac Schultz of Verdigris.
It was all offense.
But in the end, the game hinged on defense.
With Semkoff scoring eight points, on four straight attempts, Oologah broke away to a pair of seven-point leads in the third quarter.
And with the first basket of the final period, the Mustangs sat on a 58-52 cushion.
Clarke and Brown wiped out that deficit and even gave Verdigris a brief lead before the score reached 60-all with 4:35 remaining.
From that point, it was all Cardinals.
The 6-7 Hollon broke the tie with a free throw. He rebounded an Oologah miss, and passed to Brown for a basket at 3:45.
Dock Melton countered for Oologah, only to see Verdigris run off seven points in less than a minute.
Freshman Cole Overholt scored on a rebound shot, his only basket of the game, and the Mustangs committed their lone turnover of the second half.
Hollon followed with a second-chance basket and a 67-62 lead. The 6-3 Brown blocked an Oologah shot and Hollon collected the rebound. He pushed the ball to Clarke and he closed out the run, and the Mustangs, with a three-pointer at 2:11.
Hollon grabbed his seventh rebound as the clock dipped into the final minute, and over the final 48 seconds, Clarke converted six free throws in a row.
Hollon wound up hitting seven of nine shots from the field, and Brown was five of six. In the fourth quarter, Verdigris made eight of its 10 field goal attempts, while Oologah was good on only five of 15.
Clarke, who led all rebounders with nine, converted 10 of 13 free throws, hit three of seven from three-point range, and was 10 of 17 on two-pointers.
In the second quarter, White was nothing less than spectacular. He hit four straight baskets in one stretch. Of his three consecutive treys, one was from nearly 30 feet.
Midway of the period, Clarke accounted for a four-pointer. He hit a long-range attempt while being knocked out of bounds. He added the free throw that opened an eight-point gap, but White pulled the Mustangs back to within 32-31 at halftime.
The third quarter was a non-stop offensive explosion. The lead changed hands five times in two minutes. Oologah hit 10 of 18 shots, and Verdigris made nine of 14.
Clarke scored 10 points in the quarter, on five-of-six shooting, and Schultz hit a pair of treys. Semkoff had eight for Oologah.
The hot shooting could not continue for Oologah. And the combined efforts of Clarke, Brown and Hollon rescued the Cardinals down the stretch.
White, Jordan Barrett and Drew Wright had six rebounds each for Oologah.
Verdigris improved to 9-3. Oologah is 4-5.
VERDIGRIS 63, OOLOGAH 42
Oologah 13 16 8 5 — 42
Verdigris 17 9 23 14 — 63
Oologah — Hotfelt 14, Dillman 11, Jeffs 6, Linihan 4, Haines 3, Young 2, Watson 2.
Verdigris — Clarke 27, Nelms 14, K.Heskett 14, M.Heskett 5, Nichols 2, Julia Mitchell 1.
VERDIGRIS 76, OOLOGAH 69
Oologah 13 18 24 14 — 69
Verdigris 21 11 20 24 — 76
Oologah — White 24, Barrett 12, Semkoff 10, Payne 7, Melton 6, Wright 4, Troutt 4, Jacobs 2.
Verdigris — Clarke 39, Hollon 16, Brown 10, Schultz 7, Sam 2, Overholt 2.