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INOLA — If Verdigris basketball was out to make a statement on Monday night, it certainly did so in the opening round of the Jerry Oquin Tournament.

Both teams departed Longhorn Gym with double-digit wins, for the girls bested Class 5A No. 6 Pryor, 45-33, while the boys handled Victory Christian in an 83-70 decision.

The girls will face Victory Christian in the semifinals at 4 p.m. Thursday, and the boys are set to take on Stilwell at 5:30 p.m.

The Lady Conquerors bested Stilwell, 54-10, in the first round, while the Stilwell boys upset Fort Gibson, 59-56.

VERDIGRIS 83, VICTORY CHRISTIAN 70 (B)

Jaren Keith patiently waited for his moment.

The junior was held scoreless for a majority of the second half despite managing 20 points in the first half, and Victory Christian used that to trim a once 18-point deficit to seven with about four minutes remaining in regulation.

However, Keith needed only a little space to spoil the comeback.

He scored six of the Cardinals’ next 10 points, including a 3-pointer with 3:20 left, to lift Verdigris to an 83-70 win.

Keith finished with 26 points.

“My shots started falling,” Keith said. “I finally got it to go a couple of times and got myself going in the fourth quarter.”

In a game that featured 17 3-pointers between the teams, Keith notched four of the Cardinals’ nine. Even after he appeared to have suffered an ankle injury late in the first quarter, he fought through the pain to drain a 3 at the buzzer for his third triple of the frame.

Logan Cagle was close behind with three 3s of his own, finishing with 11 points.

“This group fights hard and goes hard at practice,” Keith said. “We put it in the bucket, and we’re doing well so far. We gotta keep going.”

While Keith worked to regain his groove in the second half, Tyler Haddock gave the Conqueror defense fits.

The senior scored 14 of his 26 points in the second half, eight of which came in the fourth quarter.

He and Keith tallied all but six of Verdigris’ 20 fourth-quarter points.

“They were starting to pick up their offensive scoring, so we had to do what we had to do,” Haddock said. “When we needed buckets, I just happened to be in the right place.”

Furthermore, Haddock went 8-for-8 from the free-throw line in the second half.

Cardinals coach Chris Houk wasn’t surprised by Haddock’s late focus and intensity, though.

After all, he has nothing to lose.

“That’s what you hope a senior will do,” Houk said. “Every game is his last game, and he realizes that. It helps him and motivates him, and he stepped up as a senior.”

Victory Christian’s rally came late in the third after a Haddock layup gave Verdigris a 61-44 advantage.

Led by Dre Rodriguez, Luke Patton and Jude Malhi, the Conquerors went on a 16-6 run to make it 67-60, and though Keith and Haddock pushed the lead back to double digits shortly after, Victory didn’t go away.

Six-straight points brought the Conquerors back within single digits, but the Cardinals closed with nine of the game’s final 13 points.

Rodriguez led Victory Christian with 21 points, while Patton and Malhi each added 15 points. Brayden Johnson finished in double-figures as well with 11 points.

Houk said that resiliency proved a lot about his team and what it is capable of accomplishing.

“It spoke volumes,” Houk said. “We played well the last two games, but we knew coming into this tournament that we would know who we were. Tonight was a good start by being able to hold on, hit free throws and get stops.”

VERDIGRIS 45, PRYOR 33 (G)

Lexy Borgstadt finds joy in seeing the way her younger sister Morgan lights up when praised.

There was plenty of praise to go around on Monday night.

Freshman sensation Morgan Borgstadt wasted little time implementing her will on the sixth-ranked Tigerettes, leading the Class 4A No. 10 Lady Cardinals to a 45-33 victory at Longhorn Gym.

“I was just really focused and telling myself, ‘Pryor beat us last year, and this is our time to come out and show people how good we can be,’” Morgan Borgstadt said.

Morgan Borgstadt finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, and though she managed only two points in the second half, her first-half performance—complemented by her sister—was more than enough to put Pryor in a hole it couldn’t recover from.

Lexy Borgstadt added six rebounds and 14 points, including nine in the first half.

“Morgan is such a natural athlete, and she’s so good with the ball in her hands,” Verdigris coach Mike Buntin said. “Lexy is so physical and aggressive and really good at attacking the basket.”

The Borgstadt sisters outscored the Tigerettes, 23-12, in the first half, tallying 13 of the Lady Cardinals’ 15 second-quarter points in the process.

Although Morgan Borgstadt led all scorers, she said she fed off her sister’s success.

“Whenever she’s doing something well, it pushes me to do better,” Morgan Borgstadt said. “We push each other on the court, and we’re really competitive in a loving way.”

Lexy Borgstadt echoed that sentiment.

“We’re besties off the court, too, so we talk a lot,” Lexy Borgstadt said. “I’m kind of quieter, and she can hear me when other people can’t. She looks for me because I’m her older sister.”

Verdigris was also dominant on defense, holding Pryor to only two points in the second quarter to secure a 30-12 halftime lead.

That advantage ballooned to 25 points at 40-15 in the third quarter, but the Tigerettes weren’t quite ready to surrender.

A 15-0 run spanning from the end of the third through the opening minutes of the fourth pulled Pryor back within 10.

It wouldn’t get closer than that, though, for Verdigris managed to overcome seven fourth-quarter turnovers to stave off the rally.

Rylie Looney and Kayley Alt led Pryor with 9 points apiece.

Buntin credited leadership as the driving factor for his team’s late-game grit.

“We have a lot of girls who have played a lot the last couple of years,” Buntin said. “When it mattered, those seniors went and got the ball and made free throws.”

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