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Verdigris junior Lucas Lechlider slams in a dunk during Tuesday’s home game game against Vinita at the Verdigris Activity Center.

LOCUST GROVE – Lucas Lechlider was gassed.

After intercepting an inbounds pass, the 6-foot-7 Verdigris senior found nobody between him and the basket. However, after sprinting three quarters the length of the court, Lechlider became exhausted.

After all, big men aren’t known for their dribbling skills, let alone their foot speed.

Despite that, he elevated and delivered a ferocious right-handed dunk. Lechlider was in a nearly identical position moments later, only this time he received an assist from Aaron Buntin before bolting down the court for another slam.

That sequence was part of a three-dunk flurry by Lechlider, who registered a career-high five slams in leading the Cardinals to a 62-32 victory over Ketchum in the first round of the Bank of Locust Grove Invitational on Thursday at Pirate Arena.

“You gotta dig down deep and fight through the tired,” said Lechlider, who finished with a 22-point, 10-rebound double-double. “On that coast-to-coast that I had, I was so gassed. I was like walking by the time I got to the free-throw line, and my coach was like, ‘I didn’t think you were going to dunk it.’

“It makes me happy and really shows my love for the sport. I go out there and try my hardest, and if I can get to the point where I’m dunking it almost every time, that’s a really big confidence boost for me.”

He wasn’t the only Lechlider to show off some skill, though.

Younger brother Cody Lechlider, a 6-3 sophomore, tallied 12 points and two boards by utilizing his flashy ball-handling skills and acrobatic moves near the rim. Six of his points came in the second quarter.

Much like Lucas Lechlider last season, Cody Lechlider has gone from a small role to part of the main cast in speedy fashion. His development is something the elder brother has thoroughly enjoyed thus far.

“I love it,” Lucas Lechlider said. “We’ve always been really close, but just now going to school together and being on the same basketball team, we’re building even more of a bond together and we’re having better basketball chemistry. It’s one of the best feelings in the world.”

Verdigris coach Chris Houk noted the chemistry between the brothers as well, commenting on how fun it is to watch them play together in such an efficient manner and how they don’t try to overshadow each other.

Earlier this week, the Lechliders combined for 37 points in a win over Inola.

“You can see they’ve got that connection,” Houk said. “Cody’s looking for his brother almost always, and most of the time it’s for an alley-oop. You can tell they really enjoy playing with each other, and that’s good to see. Cody understands that this is Lucas’ team. This is Lucas’ senior year; this is his. I think Cody has settled in with that.”

Tyler Willis also reached double figures, though not in points. The sophomore scored only four points but snagged 10 rebounds, seven of which were of the offensive variety.

Despite his efforts, though, the Warriors won the rebounding battle 43-38. Cody Brown led Ketchum on the boards with eight, and Rowdy Mullin had seven to go along with his 13 points.

“That’s Tyler,” Houk said. “He’s going to do whatever he can. If it’s not scoring that night, he’s going to get rebounds for us. If it’s not rebounds, it’s going to be stops or he’s going to make a play. He’s that type of player who understands there’s more to the game than scoring, and he brings that every night.”

Verdigris advanced to play Neosho in the semifinals Friday afternoon. Read correspondent Glenn Hibdon’s story from that game this weekend on claremoreprogress.com.

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