LOCUST GROVE — Basketball before noon proved to be a tasty morsel for both the Verdigris girls’ and boys’ basketball teams Thursday morning.
Each Verdigris squad posted easy wins in the opening two games of the Bank of Locust Grove Invitational at Pirate Arena.
The Verdigris girls, ranked No. 9 in Class 4A, tipped off the tournament at 10 a.m. and were in full stride from the start. They bolted to a 16-1 lead on the way to a 73-25 romp of Class 2A Ketchum behind Kylee McGuire’s game-high 20 points, which included six 3-pointers.
Not to be outdone, the No. 18 Cardinals followed with a convincing 70-42 triumph against Class 2A No. 20 Pawhuska as Ethan Bell came off the bench to contribute 14 points and eight rebounds in the runaway win.
In the girls’ bracket, Verdigris (9-3) advances to play the winner of the Lincoln Christian-Jay matchup in the semifinals at 3:20 p.m. Friday.
In boys’ action, the Cardinals (7-2) will meet the winner of the Locust Grove-Jay contest in the semifinals at 7:20 p.m. Friday.
VERDIGRIS 73, KETCHUM 25 (G)
For the second straight game, the Lady Cardinals were hot from the outside to open the contest.
Just two days earlier, in a one-sided win on the road against Inola, Verdigris started the game by canning its first four shots from beyond the arc.
Against the Warriors (2-6), the Cardinals canned five of their first six from long distance to roll to a 22-3 cushion after just one quarter.
“We shot the bell well again,” Verdigris coach Mike Buntin said after watching his team go 27-of-51 from the field for a 53-percent accuracy for the game.
That total included a 13-of-25 showing from behind the arc for 52 percent.
“If we hit our shots, we are tough to beat,” Buntin added.
With the Cardinals offense rolling and 2-1-2 trap keying a stingy defense that forced Ketchum into 15 first-half turnovers, Verdigris took a commanding 33-10 lead into halftime.
Showing no signs of letting up, McGuire strung together three straight 3-pointers midway through the third quarter then tacked on a fourth later in the period as the Verdigris lead stretched to 40 points entering the fourth quarter.
“We stressed the need to be aggressive, to keep pushing the ball and attacking,” Buntin said.
McGuire connected on her final 3-pointer in the fourth quarter to finish 6-of-8 from beyond the arc for the game.
VERDIGRIS 70, PAWHUSKA 42 (B)
After getting his first start of the season in the Cardinals’ win Tuesday against Inola, Bell was back on the bench to start the game.
But his presence was quickly noted when he entered the contest against the Huskies (8-2).
He knocked down two of Verdigris’ five first-quarter 3-pointers as the Cardinals erupted for 30 points to take a 14-point lead after just one period.
“It feels great to be able to help out my team,” Bell, a junior, said.
“I just do my job and do what is asked of me. I think we are playing well as a team. We want to prove that we can contend for a state championship.”
In the second quarter, Bell came up big on the boards—grabbing a pair of offensive rebounds—while Brant Hager also contributed to the offensive glass. Their rebounding helped lead to several putback baskets as Verdigris continued to build its lead.
“We challenged them (Bell and Hager) to get rebounds on the offensive end,” Verdigris coach Chris Houk said.
“Those are 50-50 balls, and those rebounds were big for us.”
Houk was happy to see his team play well against a Class 2A ranked team that had just the one loss entering the tournament.
“That is what worried us,” the head coach said.
“They were seeded No. 7, but we did not think that was the case.”