The Class 3A No. 4 Verdigris Cardinals got a ‘wake-up’ call in the first round of the 44th Annual Port City Tournament.
Class 6A Claremore gave Verdigris a test early, but the Cardinals prevailed with a strong second half and advanced to the semifinals with the 57-44 victory.
The win over Claremore ensured the Cardinals a spot in today’s semifinals against Cascia Hall. Tip-off is set for 5:30 p.m. at Catoosa High School.
The loss dropped Claremore to the loser’s bracket consolation semifinals against Catoosa. Tip-off is set for 2:30 p.m. today at Catoosa High School.
Early on, Claremore maintained the tempo of the game and enjoyed a 14-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.
A three-pointer by Claremore senior guard T.J. Wood put the Zebras up 12-7 with 3:46 remaining in the opening quarter.
One possession later, Hutch Helbig knocked down the 10-foot jumper to push the Zebras’ lead to 14-7.
Verdigris, which converted 2-of-10 three-pointers in the first half, chipped away at Claremore’s lead using the 6-foot-5 presence of Caleb Jones in the paint.
Jones attacked the glass for eight points in the first 16 minutes and pulled Verdigris within a point at 24-23 going into halftime.
Though Verdigris couldn’t find any rhythm from the perimeter in the first half, the second half proved different.
Cade Upshaw drained a pair of 35-foot bombs in the third quarter to push the Verdigris lead to 40-26 with 1:26 remaining.
Upshaw’s first trey in the third quarter put the lead into double-figures, and swung the momentum into the Cardinals’ favor.
Verdigris tallied four of its six treys in the second half, and outscored Claremore, 34-20 after halftime.
Jones tallied a game-high 19 points — and secured the game with a breakaway dunk in the third quarter — to lead the Cardinals offense.
Upshaw also contributed with 15 points and Laef Payne added 11.
Claremore freshman point guard Jeff Oxford led the Zebras with nine points, while Reid Joyner had eight. Wood and Helbig also finished with six points each and Rande Williams had seven.