There was no denying Thursday night that the Verdigris Cardinals had no plans of sharing their Will Rogers Conference Championship.
Behind Cade Upshaw’s game-high 27 points and the accurate 3-point shooting of freshman forward Brewster Peacock, the Class 3A No. 4 Cardinals swarmed over Inola, 98-80.
The win guaranteed Verdigris heads into the district tournament this week as the Will Rogers Conference champions and the No. 1-seed against Metro Christian.
Upshaw scored 15 of his 27 points in the first half, and got help from Laef Payne and Peacock with a combined 25 points to help Verdigris jump out to a 52-37 halftime lead.
Upshaw and Payne scored 23 of Verdigris’ first 25 points in the opening quarter.
Inola kept the game close, until Payne’s ability to drive the lane for a pair of layups and his 3-pointer with 0:42 remaining made it 23-18 in favor of Verdigris.
Inola senior point guard Travis Hall capped the first quarter scoring with a transition layup to narrow the gap to 25-20.
Verdigris, however, wasted little time in the second quarter to set the tone, as Peacock scored 10 points on a pair of 3-pointers and Upshaw and Payne combined for 11 points.
Aaron Davis’ 3-pointer cut the Verdigris lead to 29-28 with 6:02 remaining in the first half.
But, Peacock’s 3-pointer with 3:51 remaining ignited an 18-0 run by the Cardinals that increased Verdigris’ lead to 49-32. During that scoring stretch, Ryan Skalnik and Payne also knocked down 3-pointers for Verdigris.
Peacock’s second 3-pointer in the first half carried the Cardinals into halftime with a 52-37 lead.
Upshaw and Payne tallied 15 points each in the first half, and Peacock had 10. Tyler Monroe also contributed with seven, while Skalnik added three and Paul Hollon had two.
Davis highlighted Inola’s first-half scoring with 13 points and Casey Gill added eight.
Hall, who was held to four points in the first half, helped rally Inola in the second half with 21 of his 25 points. Hall knocked down three treys in the second half, and got Inola within Verdigris at 76-65 with 6:27 remaining in the game.
Verdigris outscored Inola, 46-43 in the second half.
Along with Upshaw, Peacock had 22 points and Payne finished with 19. Monroe also contributed in double figures with 13.
For Inola, Hall had 25 points, followed by Davis with 15 and Taylor Mootry with 11.