LOCUST GROVE – Verdigris boys basketball coach Chris Houk didn’t have to change anything for his team’s rematch against Adair on Saturday night in the Bank of Locust Grove Invitational Tournament final.
The Cardinals were crowned champions of the tournament after a 64-55 win against Class 3A No. 4 Adair at Pirate Arena.
The victory improved Class 4A No. 18 Verdigris to 7-1 after adding three more wins to its tally over the weekend. Adair dropped to 6-2, with both the Warriors’ only two losses of the season coming against Verdigris.
“(The win was) very big,” Houk said. “... It’s always tough to beat someone twice, especially a top-5 team in 3A. Neutral floor, so that’s always good. The kids responded very well to adversity, and that’s what they’ve done.”
The Cardinals edged by Adair in overtime, 67-58, on Dec. 18 in Verdigris’ last game before Christmas Break and most recent before entering the Bank of Locust Grove Invitational Tournament.
Its second win against Adair within a month came much easier for Verdigris, as the Cardinals controlled most of the game.
Verdigris never trailed in Saturday night’s contest and led by as many as 12 points early in the second half. Adair stayed close, though, and got within one point in the fourth quarter before Verdigris took over again and distanced the margin.
“I’m gonna tell you, none,” Houk said of differences he made before a rematch with Adair. “It was successful last game, so why change something? Again, our kids responded just like they did last game— positively. It’s good it works out for them.”
After the Cardinals were awarded the championship plaque Saturday night, two Verdigris players were announced on the all-tournament team, including MVP Lucas Lechlider, a 6-foot-7 junior who scored 14 points in the finale.
“That’s exciting for him,” Houk said. “It’s a very good confidence booster for that kid. He didn’t get to play last year because this time last year he went skiing, got injured, so he was out all year last year, so it’s a good comeback for him.”
Senior guard Trent Haddock joined his teammate on the all-tournament team after tallying 13 points Saturday night. Although he did not receive all-tournament team honors, senior guard Ethan Bell led the Cardinals with 16 points in the championship game.
“It’s good to have those things work out for those seniors, especially this year, because you don’t know how many they’re gonna get to play,” Houk said. “Every game, we’re thankful for.”
Adair’s Chance Condit, Locust Grove’s Jake Bible, OKC Storm’s Jawan Mukes and Garber’s TJ Bennett made up the rest of the all-tournament team.
After COVID-19-related issues forced teams to drop out of the tournament, a bracket that usually includes local teams featured teams from across the state and beyond, including Neosho (Missouri) and the OKC Storm.
Verdigris beat Nathan Hale and Class A No. 3 Garber, respectively, to advance to the championship.
But even with all the shuffling and odd additions, the bracket still ended with two familiar foes located within 30 miles of each other competing for the title.
“But they were the one seed, so they should have been in the finals,” Houk said. “We were sixth seed, but Tulsa Central got quarantined, so sometimes those unfortunate circumstances work out in your favor, and we took advantage of it.”
Verdigris is scheduled to travel to Vinita at 8 p.m. Tuesday for its next game.