Verdigris senior point guard Baileigh O’Dell may have won the points column, but Inola’s Lexi Williams and the Lady Longhorns stole the spotlight at the buzzer.
Williams, who transferred into Inola this year from Bixby and is the daughter of Lady Longhorns’ coaches Donnie and Lori Martin, made Thursday night one to remember in Rogers County.
For 32 minutes, the Lady Longhorns never backed away from the traditionally-rich Verdigris Lady Cardinals.
With heart and determination, Inola brought a long-awaited Will Rogers Conference championship back this basketball-crazed town with its 53-51 upset win over Class 3A No. 3 Verdigris.
Though Verdigris beat Inola in the first meeting, the two teams share the conference championship and surge into the district tournaments this week with momentum on their side.
Early on, the showdown between O’Dell and Williams was overshadowed by Inola’s ability to attack Verdigris inside with Kylie Rue.
The dominating presence of Rue in the paint accounted for eight of Inola’s 25 first-half points.
Inola leaped out to a 6-0 lead early in the first quarter, and forced Verdigris head coach Mike Buntin to reiterate the importance of this game to his squad.
A three-pointer by O’Dell quickly helped Verdigris to trim Inola’s lead to 6-5.
Williams, on the ensuing possession, buried a running jumper and O’Dell answered with a baseline jumper to keep the game close with Inola leading 8-7.
Inola’s plan to attack the basket paid large dividends as the Lady Longhorns increased its lead to 12-7.
Then, with 0:25 left in the opening quarter, Kristen Mootry’s 3-pointer pushed Inola’s lead to 15-8.
O’Dell, who finished with a game-high 31 points, capped the first quarter with her second 3-pointer to narrow the gap to 15-11.
Both teams continued to play nip-and-tuck with Inola using a pair of free throws by Rue to go up 21-16.
A give-and-go basket by Erin Raines from Caitlyn Hanslovan helped Verdigris cut the margin to 21-18.
Lindsey Byfield’s 3-pointer following the Verdigris turnover allowed Inola to go up 24-18 with 1:12 left in the first half.
Verdigris, once again, relied on O’Dell and the free throw shooting to Courtney Risenhoover to go into halftime down 25-21 to Inola.
O’Dell and Risenhoover tallied 18 of the 21 points for Verdigris.
Rue and Byfield combined for 15 of Inola’s 25 points.
O’Dell caught fire in the third quarter — hitting a 3-pointer and a jumper — to tie the game at 26.
After two free throws by Williams, Caitlyn Hanslovan drained a 3-pointer with 2:24 left in the third quarter to tie the game at 30.
A jumper and 3-pointer by Williams with 0:44 left put Inola up 37-32.
But, once again, O’Dell’s continued pursuit toward the basket helped Verdigris narrow the deficit to 37-36 with two free throw conversions.
Down the stretch, in the fourth quarter, Williams came up huge for the Lady Longhorns.
Williams knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 42-38 and then converted a baseline jumper with 1:15 remaining to give Inola a 50-48 lead.
O’Dell’s 3-pointer with 0:58 put Verdigris ahead 51-50.
Inola, though, made 3-of-4 free throws — including a pair by Carli Jones — to secure the win.
Williams led Inola with 16 points and Rue had nine.