If a Class 3A state championship is meant to be for the Verdigris Cardinals, they will have to knock off the two-time defending champion and No. 1-ranked Oklahoma City Centennial in the quarterfinals tonight in Yukon.
The No. 4 Cardinals (23-4) embrace the opportunity to face the state’s best in the Elite Eight at 8:30 p.m.
Despite the Bison’s 19-8 overall record, OKC Centennial remains the top seed in the Class 3A State Tournament.
Coached by Scott Raper, the Bison are vying for their third consecutive state championship and looking to extend their perfect record in the state tournament.
Raper is 6-0 in state tournament games in his six-year career at OKC Centennial.
The Bison are led by four juniors — 6-foot-7 center Austin Garner (11.0 ppg), 6-3 guard Malik Foxx (10.0 ppg), 5-9 guard Malcolm Mitchell (11.0 ppg) and 6-3 forward Cornelius McKiver (7.0 ppg) — and 6-1 sophomore forward Terry Davis (8.0 ppg).
Randy Upshaw’s senior-laden Cardinals will counter a starting lineup that is anchored by three seniors — 6-3 forward Blake Battenfield (16.2 ppg), 6-0 forward Dakota Brasher (4.4 ppg), 5-10 guard Chase Bryant (8.7 ppg) — 6-0 junior forward Tyler Monroe (8.2 ppg) and 5-10 sophomore point guard Cade Upshaw (12.5 ppg).
The Cardinals have been to the state tournament eight times, winning the 3A state title in 2008.
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The No. 5 Lady Cardinals (24-4) return to the 3A state tournament for the second-straight season under head coach Mike Buntin.
After falling in the quarterfinals last year to Prague, the Lady Cardinals are eager to take the next step — reaching the Final Four.
In order for that to happen, the Lady Cardinals must defeat No. 3 Oklahoma City Millwood (20-3) at 2 p.m. today in the quarterfinals. The Lady Falcons are the defending 3A state champion and have 20 state tournament appearances.
Under head coach Arnelia Spears, OKC Millwood is led by three seniors — 6-0 forward Mekale Chapple (5.4 ppg), 5-11 forward Keviona Grissom (10.9 ppg) and 5-7 guard Teanna Reid (17.0 ppg) — 6-1 sophomore guard Raven Prince (7.9 ppg) and 5-5 freshman point guard NyKiah Hines (3.7 ppg).
In 2012, the Lady Falcons defeated Prague, 64-50 to claim their first state title since finishing second in 2011.
Buntin’s Lady Cardinals are sparked by 5-8 senior guard Stacia Payne, who ranks second on the team in scoring with 13.4 points per game. Payne — in the fall — guided the Lady Cardinals to the 2012 Class 3A state volleyball tournament.
Payne is joined in the backcourt by 5-4 junior point guard Baileigh O’Dell (17.2 ppg) and 5-4 junior guard Caitlyn Hanslovan (6.2 ppg).
Hanslovan anchors the Lady ‘Cards defense and also brings a wealth of state tournament experience to the lineup. The three-year lettermen has a pair of 4A state championships in girls’ soccer on her resume.
Camry Collins, a 5-6 senior forward, and 5-10 sophomore center Courtney Risenhoover round out the starters.