Eleventh-ranked Kansas succumbed to the Verdigris Cardinals’ inside game in the first half, then withered under three-point shooting in the second as the Cards held on for a 61-49 victory in the regional championship game Monday night at the Muskogee Civic Center.
The win puts No. 4 Verdigris (22-4) in the Class 3A area tournament starting Thursday at Fort Gibson High School.
The Cardinals battered Kansas inside, compiling a 30-14 rebound advantage. With passes lobbed underneath to Blake Battenfield, Verdigris controlled the first half with layups and power moves by the 6-foot-3 senior. Battenfield, scored 12 points in the first two periods and finished with 17.
Verdigris hit five of its first six shots in the second quarter to take a 22-11 lead and the gap reached 29-13 on Tyler Monroe’s fast break layup late in the half.
Kansas, outrebounded 17-4 by the Cardinals at the break, came out more aggressive offensively in the second half. It did no good as Verdigris simply kicked the ball to the perimeter and continued to score.
Five three-point baskets in the third frame proved crucial, including consecutive triples by Chase Bryant and Leonard Brockup that kept the margin at 51-37.
Finishing the first three periods hitting 59 percent from the floor, Verdigris made just one field goal in the final period, but cashed 8-of-8 three throws. Kansas came within 55-49 in the final two minutes, then Monroe, Battenfield and Bryant each nailed a pair at the foul line to seal the win.