ADAIR – Zander Kirby was in such a zone, he lost count of just how many points he scored.
"I lost it," he said. "I had it in my head."
Luckily for Verdigris, he netted just enough.
The 6-foot-4 senior forward scored 14 of his career-high 18 points in the second half, sending the unranked Cardinals to a 67-58 upset victory over Class 3A No. 3 Adair in overtime Friday night at the Adair Event Center. Kirby hit the tying shot with 58 seconds remaining in regulation, as well as the game-clincher that gave Verdigris a five-point lead late in the extra period.
“I got goosebumps right now just talking about it, honestly,” said Kirby, who also grabbed five rebounds. “It’s amazing. It made me feel really good, obviously. I just come off the bench; I don’t start.
“Hopefully this will get me a lot of playing time.”
Fellow senior Ethan Bell was credited with the game-winning shot, breaking a 56-all tie with a 3-pointer on the right wing with 2:32 remaining in overtime shortly after Aaron Buntin evened the count with a layup, sparking a 13-2 run.
Bell finished with 16 points, 11 of which came in the second half, to go along with five rebounds.
“It came out of my hands terribly,” Bell said of what was his third triple. “I didn’t think I was going to make that, but you know, you get lucky sometimes. It is what it is.
“Everyone was hyped, and everyone was ready to go,” he added. “We came into this game knowing we could do it.”
Zach Rains brought the Warriors back within one point following Bell’s 3-ball, but Trent Haddock answered with a 3-pointer of his own to send the Cardinals on an 8-0 run that capped the win. Haddock, also a senior, managed 12 points with six rebounds.
Kirby didn’t emerge until the second half mainly because of the play of fellow big man Lucas Lechlider.
The 6-7 junior looked well on his way to a double-double with eight points and seven rebounds midway through the third quarter, but he never got to complete that achievement after Kirby went in to give him a quick breather.
What was meant to be a temporary substitution turned permanent after Kirby scored eight quick points, and Verdigris coach Chris Houk had no choice but to go with the hot hand. Lechlider never re-entered the game.
Houk said he planned to sub Lechlider back in if Kirby got in foul trouble or showed signs of tiring, but neither scenario transpired.
“You can kind of ride that wave, and with Zander, it just seemed like that wave never crashed,” Houk said. “It was just one of those nights where we needed them. Lucas started off on the right foot, and Zander just came in there and kept going. It was perfect timing. When we needed it, he was there and had his career night. It was the perfect night to have it.
“He was definitely one of the big reasons we were able to hang in there and ultimately pull it off.”
However, the Cardinals nearly missed their opportunity to finish Adair off.
The Warriors gained possession with 1.6 seconds remaining in regulation after Kirby stepped out of bounds while corralling an offensive rebound, and Houk could only watch helplessly as Garrett Long – who had been nearly automatic all night – raced unabated toward the basket after slipping behind the defense and catching a deep inbounds pass.
Houk thought it was all over, but then something miraculous happened. Long missed.
His uncontested layup rolled off the rim at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime, and that was the only chance Verdigris needed to complete the upset.
“Luckily it was on his left side, and that’s his weak side,” Houk said of the Adair senior, who led all scorers with 23 points and hit four of the team’s 10 triples. “That probably played into it, going 100 mph in 1.6 seconds, and that’s all going through his head, too. In my head, it was done. Nine times out of 10, he’s going to make that. We just got a break, and that’s basketball. Fortunately, we got to capitalize on it.”
Elsewhere for the Warriors, Colby Farrar registered 11 points with three rebounds while Rains added seven points with 11 boards.
The Cardinals had overcome a 53-48 deficit in the minutes leading up to that nerve-racking sequence thanks to a 6-1 run, which was capped by a Kirby layup, to tie the game at 54. Bell and Jaren Keith went 4-of-4 at the free-throw line during that spurt.
Verdigris made 14 of 16 free throws in all, helping to alleviate the impact of committing 23 turnovers. Both teams had 13 offensive rebounds, but the Cardinals won the overall battle on the glass 37-30.
“It just shows the character that we knew they had,” Houk said. “It took perseverance and hanging in there and not letting the bad stuff that happens dictate what was ultimately in our control. I’m proud of their grit and how they kept fighting even when they were down.
“They deserve it.”
VERDIGRIS 67, ADAIR 58 (OT)
VERDIGRIS – Zander Kirby 18, Ethan Bell 16, Trent Haddock 12, Lechlider 8, Buntin 5, Lederman 3, Keith 3, Layton 2.
ADAIR – Garrett Long 23, Colby Farrar 11, Duncan 8, Rains 7, Lippe 3, Back 3, Ratcliff 3.
3-point goals: Verdigris – Bell 3, Haddock 2, Buntin 1, Lederman 1. Adair – Long 4, Farrar 3, Duncan 1, Ratcliff 1, Back 1.
Free throws: Verdigris 14-16. Adair 4-9.
Rebounds: Verdigris – Lechlider 7, Haddock 6, Layton 6, Bell 5, Kirby 5, Keith 4, Buntin 3, Team 1. TOTAL 37. Adair – Zach Rains 11, Team 4, Farrar 3, Duncan 3, Long 2, Lippe 2, Johnson 2, Back 1, Ratcliff 1, Jackson 1. TOTAL 30.
Turnovers: Verdigris 23. Adair 18.