LOCUST GROVE — The Lady Cardinals held up their end of the bargain, so it was only appropriate that coach Mike Buntin did the same.
Class 4A No. 9 Verdigris won the Bank of Locust Grove Invitational on Monday with a 56-41 win over the host Lady Pirates at Pirate Arena, and it was a jubilant locker room afterward as Buntin rewarded his excited players with his best Mike Gundy dance impression.
“We really wanted it,” said junior Lexy Borgstadt, who tallied of double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds to finish as Tournament MVP. “We all got kind of hyped in the locker room one day, and we told him to dance while just messing around, and he said if we win on (Monday), he’ll do it.”
Freshman Morgan Borgstadt, who managed 21 points and seven rebounds, added to her older sister’s statement: “It was fun to see him get excited for us because he doesn’t smile a lot.”
The victory was a long time coming for the Lady Cardinals (11-3), who finally picked up a tournament championship after placing third in Inola’s Jerry Oquin Tournament and sixth in the Mustang Holiday Classic.
“It’s really big for our confidence,” Buntin said. “We’ve been rolling and playing really well since the Mustang tournament, so it’s good to keep playing like that.”
However, the happy ending didn’t resonate with the boys team.
Verdigris dropped a 65-56 decision to Class 3A No. 7 Sequoyah Tahlequah in the third-place game despite a 30-point, six-rebound effort from senior Tyler Haddock.
It marked the second-straight loss for the Cardinals, who left the tourney sporting a 7-4 record.
Both Verdigris teams had a quick turnaround, hosting Vinita on Tuesday night at Jack Collins Fieldhouse. See the Thursday edition for the full story on the doubleheader.
The Inola girls suffered a similar fate earlier in the afternoon, falling to Lincoln Christian by a score of 62-40 in the third-place game.
Marley Jo Eaves (14 points, three rebounds) rallied the Lady Longhorns to within eight at halftime after an early 15-point deficit, but they were outscored 33-19 in the second half.
Emma Bell had a solid outing despite the loss, finishing with 8 points and six rebounds.
Ella Brueggemann led the Lady Bulldogs with 18 points while four others notched at least 8 points.
VERDIGRIS 56, LOCUST GROVE 41 (G)
Lexy Borgstadt was a mismatch nightmare for Locust Grove, and she knew it.
“I knew they couldn’t guard me on the outside, and if they went inside, I felt I could post up, too,” Lexy Borgstadt said. “If they laid off, I was just going to shoot it.”
The junior wasn’t bragging. She was simply observing, and her stat line more than backed up her confidence.
Lexy Borgstadt proved to be a lethal weapon on offense, scoring 13 of the Lady Cardinals’ first 19 points in leading Verdigris to its second-straight Bank of Locust Grove Invitational championship.
She finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Eleven of those points came in the first quarter, helping the Lady Cardinals to an early 17-9 lead.
“They didn’t have anyone who could guard her, either inside or outside, so we felt like we could move her in different positions and take advantage of it,” Buntin said.
Although Lexy Borgstadt managed only 3 points in the second half, Morgan Borgstadt more than picked up the slack.
The freshman surpassed her older sister in the scorebook despite giving her a 9-point head start, scoring 8 points in the fourth period—including 6-of-6 from the free-throw line—to finish with 21 points and seven rebounds.
“In the second half, (Lexy Borgstadt) got really frustrated and down on herself when she missed her first couple shots, so I’m glad her sister picked her up,” Buntin said.
Her timely contribution helped halt a 13-3 run that brought Locust Grove within five at 44-38 early in the final frame. Verdigris outscored the Lady Pirates, 12-3, the rest of the way.
“Coach (Bryan) Wesson and coach Buntin kind of jumped on my butt, saying that I needed to get the ball and step it up,” Morgan Borgstadt said. “When they started yelling at me, that motivated me to do better. And I knew I needed to pick it up for my sister and my team.”
Junior Jordan Chancellor came up big in the final minutes as well, hitting a 3-pointer to increase the Lady Cardinals’ 9-point lead to double-digits at 50-38.
Chancellor notched 12 points, all from beyond the arc.
“She’s been really stepping it up lately, and she’s become a really big part of our team,” Lexy Borgstadt said of Chancellor.
Kaitlyn Spradilla paced Locust Grove (8-3) with 10 points, and Landry Sweeney and Madison Smith were close behind with 9 points each.
Harley Culie and Kamryn Binam co-led the Lady Pirates on the boards with four rebounds apiece.
SEQUOYAH TAHLEQUAH 65, VERDIGRIS 56 (B)
At first glance, 30 points is an outstanding stat.
It loses some of its luster, though, when it is accompanied by a loss. Haddock, a senior, learned that the hard way in the Cardinals’ 9-point loss to Class 3A No. 7 Sequoyah Tahlequah.
“He’s going to feel like he had a good night, but I’m sure he’d trade that for a win,” Verdigris coach Chris Houk said. “You’d like to have him get 30 and you win, but unfortunately, that’s not been the case. Most of the time when he gets that many, we come up on the losing end because no one else is contributing.
“We’d rather have three guys with 10 points than one guy with 30.”
Haddock came alive after the Indians (9-3) built a 16-5 lead early in the second quarter, scoring 19 first-half points—including 16 of Verdigris’ first 17 points—to tie the game at 25 at halftime.
Haddock’s increased productivity was a necessity, however, because of an off-shooting night from Jaren Keith.
Keith, who occasionally matches or surpasses Haddock in points scored, was held to 1 point and five rebounds and didn’t play most of the fourth quarter after receiving a technical foul.
Houk replaced Keith with freshman Caden Parnell, a move he said he believes benefitted his team.
The momentum seemingly swung in the Cardinals’ favor after the switch, for Verdigris used a 14-5 run to trim a once 12-point deficit to 55-52 with just over two minutes remaining.
Parnell contributed five of his 10 points during the spurt.
“We brought a guy in who gave us some energy, so if we left Jaren in, we might not have got it down to three,” Houk said. “It’s hard to say if it made that much of a difference because (Keith) wasn’t playing well. Caden brings energy, and he never quits or stops on a play. It’s big and it’s huge, but it’s not unexpected from him. It’s something he’s able to do, and we’ve slowly brought him along. He’s just now getting his rhythm and finding his spot on the team.
“Tonight, he had an opportunity and took advantage of his minutes.”
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, it wouldn’t get any closer than that.
Thanks to some stellar free-throw shooting, Sequoyah Tahlequah, led by CJ Soap, sealed the victory with a 10-4 run.
Soap finished with 19 points, netting 17 in the fourth quarter. He went 12-of-16 from the free-throw line during that span.
Justice Retzloff scored in double-figures as well with 11 points for the Indians.
Elsewhere, Sequoyah Tahlequah’s 6-foot-5 senior Brayden Haddock nearly notched a double-double with 9 points and eight rebounds.
Tyler Haddock’s brother, Trent, secured 9 points and four rebounds in the loss.
Verdigris lost the rebounding battle, 39-29.
“We don’t have a lot of time to even think about this loss; we have to go to the next one,” Houk said. “If this would’ve happened Saturday, we would’ve had three days to stew on it, but we don’t have that luxury now.”