INOLA — What a difference a year makes for the Verdigris boys’ basketball team.
In each of the last two years while participating in the annual Jerry Oquin Basketball Tournament, the Cardinals on the final day of the event played in the seventh-place game—and lost each time.
This year, Verdigris also suffered a setback on the final day of the Jerry Oquin tournament, held at Inola High School’s Indoor Sports Arena.
But this time the Cardinals’ loss came in the championship game.
Verdigris fell into a 16-point hole in the first half and could never recover in dropping a 62-46 decision to Siloam Springs (Ark.) on Saturday night to finish as tournament runner-up.
“You hate to lose but, you can’t overlook our effort,” Cardinals coach Chris Houk said as his squad absorbed its first loss of the season.
“I am so proud of our team. Our team’s effort gave us a chance to win. They played hard.”
Tyler Haddock, an all-tournament selection, led the way for the Cardinals (4-1) with 17 points and four rebounds.
Jaren Keith joined Haddock on the all-tournament team while adding 7 points and three rebounds.
Brent Hager also netted 7 points while grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds.
Verdigris trailed 15-4 late in the first quarter and saw its deficit grow to 28-12 midway through the second period.
But back-to-back 3-pointers by Logan Cagle and Paddock ignited a 12-4 run as the Cardinals closed to within 32-24 by halftime.
Paddock, a senior, ended the run with six points at the free throw line.
Verdigris picked up right where it left off after intermission.
Buoyed by four points from Hager, the Cardinals scored eight of the first 10 points of the second half to pull within 34-32.
“At halftime, we asked our players how they would respond in the second half,” Houk said of his team’s quick start in the third quarter.
But the two-point deficit is as close as the Cardinals would get.
Verdigris still was within three points in the final seconds of the third quarter, but the Panthers’ Carter Winesburg swished a 40-footer just before the buzzer to give Siloam Springs (6-1) a 43-37 advantage entering the final period.
The Cardinals then went cold from the field, tallying only one field goal in the first 6:30 of the quarter.
Siloam Springs took advantage of the Verdigris drought to go on a 19-2 scoring spree to make it a 62-39 contest with 1:44 to play.
”We gave up some easy layups,” Houk said about his team’s play during that stretch.
“Basketball is a game of runs, and our run was not enough to put us over the hump.”
Despite the loss, Houk was optimistic after his team recorded double-digit wins against Victory Christian and Stilwell in the tournament before falling to Siloam Springs.
The Panthers compete in the next-to-the-largest classification in Arkansas—Class 5A—and had recorded previous tournament wins against two Oklahoma teams in Class 5A—Coweta and Pryor.
“We have a team that really embraces its role and does what it can to be a team,” Houk said.
“That’s the difference in this team from the last two years.”