The bigger the game, the better Verdigris junior point guard Cade Upshaw plays.
Upshaw’s steal and layup with 2:37 remaining in the third quarter swung the momentum in favor of the Cardinals and propelled his team to a 70-61 win over Class 4A No. 7 Inola Friday night during Homecoming at the Jack Collins Fieldhouse.
The layup came at a critical point in the third quarter as both teams were deadlocked at 36-all during a three-minute stretch.
The pesky penetration of the Cardinals’ three-year starter led to Verdigris taking a 38-36 lead and Upshaw finishing with 21 points — 15 of those coming after halftime.
After draining a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter and being held scoreless in the second period, Upshaw’s third trey gave Verdigris a 32-31 early in the third quarter.
Inola, though, would continue to stay on the heels of the Cardinals, thanks to Taylor Mootry’s ability to knock down several clutch baskets on the perimeter.
Mootry, who had a game-high 29 points, narrowed the Verdigris lead to 40-39 with 1:24 remaining in the third quarter. The Inola captain scored 13 of the Longhorns’ 29 points in the first half on 3-of-5 shooting from the behind the arc.
Early on, this marquee match-up played out to be a battle between Mootry and Verdigris power forward Caleb Jones.
Jones, a towering 6-foot-5 senior, scored 12 of his 26 points in the first half to put Verdigris up 31-29 at halftime.
Inola jumped out to a 8-0 lead before Verdigris converted on Jones’ offensive putback with 5:58 remaining in the first quarter.
Jones scored eight of the Cardinals’ first 16 points in the first quarter.
A 3-pointer by Aaron Davis increased Inola’s lead to 22-18 with 5:25 remaining until halftime. Moments after, Tyler Monroe’s penetrating layup knotted the game at 22, Davis buried his second trey with 3:09 left in the first quarter to return to 25-22 lead back to Inola.
Back-to-back long-range bombs from Mootry pushed the Inola lead to 31-24 with under two minutes left in the second quarter.
Verdigris, though, closed out the first half with a trey from Monroe and a strong power move inside by Jones.
The Cardinals, who lost in double overtime to Inola earlier in the season at the Jerry Oquin Tournament championship, rode the hot shooting of Upshaw down the stretch to secure the homecoming victory.
Upshaw’s consecutive baskets and Jones’ bucket in the paint gave the Cardinals a 10-point lead at 55-45 with 5:21 left in the game. Travis Hall, however, drained a 3-pointer with 2:27 left to cut the deficit to 59-56.
Along with Upshaw and Jones, Monroe had 11 points and Laef Payne had 10.
Garrett Glass finished with 10 points for Inola.