VERDIGRIS — On a night when the home teams smoked the nets for a combined 151 points, none of the Verdigris fans wanted to leave the gym when it was all over.
Playing in the first round of a Class 3A high school basketball regional tournament, the Verdigris boys coasted to an 89-43 textbook victory over Okemah. It came on the heels of the Lady Cardinals' 70-49 pounding of Eufaula.
The twin wins completed a perfect season at home for the Cardinal followers. From here on out in the playoffs, their favorites will be playing elsewhere.
By winning Thursday night, both Verdigris teams will travel to Beggs for Saturday's regional championship contests.
The No. 2-ranked Lady Cardinals will take on No. 11 Keys at 6:30 p.m.
The No. 2-ranked boys will take on unranked Holdenville at 8 p.m.
Senior Tiffani Nelms, playing her final home game, set the stage early. She drilled a baseline three-pointer immediately after the opening jump ball. Before it was over, she would add up a game-high 26 points.
"Tiffani certainly came out and got us started in the right direction," said coach Gary Kennemer. "I didn't know what to expect. We have been battling sickness all week, but the girls came out and played maybe their best game all season. Their best on both ends of the court."
The victory kept the Lady Cardinals undefeated. Now at 21-0, Verdigris wasted no time in showing the 12-7 Lady Ironheads who was boss.
Two treys by Helms and a rebounded basket by Julia Mitchell at the start lifted Verdigris to an 8-0 lead. Kait Heskett lofted another three-pointer as the first-quarter buzzer went off, making the score 17-5.
The start of the second period saw Nelms do it again. From the right corner, she fired the ball up and it hit the rim and bounced some five feet straight up, only to drop back through the net.
It was that type of night for Kennemer's girls. The Lady Cardinals counted 42 points by way of the long ball. They collected on 14 of 31 trey attempts.
Here’s a quick recap:
Rotnei Clarke — 31 points, six assists, four steals.
Adam Hollon — 20 points, 11 rebounds.
Isaac Schultz — 13 points, 11 assists, five steals.
D.J. Brown — 11 points.
Added up, it resulted in a well-rounded Verdigris runaway.
"They are coming on," understated coach Kelley Clarke as his Cardinals improved to 20-3.
Okemah entered the game with an 11-11 record. It was clear after the first few minutes the Panthers would be no match for the Cardinals.
The latest "Rotnei Clarke Watch" had coaches present from Missouri State, Arkansas, Arizona State and the University of Tulsa.
The flashy junior didn't disappoint. His points all came in the first three quarters. And he hit only one three-point shot. It came late in the third period. He added 13 of 16 free throws.
Schultz' 11 assists increased his state-leading total to 182.
Hollon added two blocked shots and now has 73 for the season.
VERDIGRIS 89, OKEMAH 43
Okemah 6 11 15 11 — 43
Verdigris 20 24 23 22 — 89
Okemah — Custer 16, Chestra 7, Boyd 6, Fixico 4, Givens 2, Dunn 2, Cole 2, Baker 2, Sands 1, Swinford 1.
Verdigris — Clarke 31, Hollon 20, Schultz 13, Brown 11, Overholt 6, Morgan 6, Parham 2.
VERDIGRIS 70, EUFAULA 49
Eufaula 5 11 15 18 — 49
Verdigris 17 15 19 19 — 70
Eufaula — Alston 9, Wilson 9, McKeefer 7, Atzhison 7, Crawford 6, Anderson 4, Helms 2, Wiedel 2, Aday 2.
Verdigris — Nelms 26, Clarke 17, Meg Heskett 7, Kait Heskett 6, Julia Mitchell 4, Blan 4, Weber 2, Stout 2, Nichols 2.