VERDIGRIS — When Jaren Keith gets going, Verdigris is awfully difficult to stop.
The senior has found the ball in his hands more and more since Cardinals point guard Mike Anderson transferred to Claremore a few weeks ago, and he continued showcasing his skills on Friday night.
Keith went on an electric shooting spree in the first half, hitting five 3-pointers to lead Verdigris to a 60-50 win over Rogers County rival Sequoyah at Jack Collins Fieldhouse.
A 5-foot-9 guard, Keith finished with a game-high 19 points and three rebounds.
“I got the first one to fall, so I knew the next ones would feel good, and they got to falling,” Keith said. “Then they hit a couple 3s, and we needed to get some stops, but they kept smacking them.”
Three of his shots from long range came during a back-and-forth exchange between him and Sequoyah’s Zach Perry and Eli Wood.
Led by Perry, the duo of Eagles ignited a 15-6 run to overcome a 13-point deficit and bring Sequoyah within four at 36-32 at halftime.
Wood started the run with five-straight points to make it an 8-point game, and Perry, who was still recovering from a strain of the flu, followed with 3-balls on three-consecutive possessions.
Verdigris coach Chris Houk said the 3-point barrage might’ve been fun for the players, but it was nerve-racking for coaches.
“Tonight, (Keith) hit the shots the offense created for him,” Houk said. “And when we can do that, we’re really good. But we know that’s fool’s gold. We know that gold rush is eventually going to run out, and it did in the second quarter.
“That’s when the momentum changed and they started making those 3s.”
The Cardinals’ success from deep continued in the second half, but the same couldn’t be said for Sequoyah.
Despite outscoring Verdigris 21-14 in the second quarter, the Eagles managed only 18 points in the second half and no 3-pointers.
The Cardinals, in the meantime, added three 3-balls in the second half, bringing their total to 11.
Wood (5 points, 5 rebounds) and Perry (11 points) were held to 2 points combined in the second half.
Blake Bedsworth, who had three 3-pointers himself, added 16 points to go along with his four rebounds for Sequoyah.
“We got our hands up on those shooters and chased them off the line,” Houk said. “They are a team that has hit more 3s than 2s, so we knew they live and die by that 3. That’s what kept them in it. Changing that shot just a little bit was the difference.”
Sequoyah coach Larry Grigg acknowledged the lack of long-range success in the second half, but he said his team’s second-half struggles had more to do with its inability to finish at the rim.
“They pushed out a little bit, and we got to the rim more, but we just didn’t finish,” Grigg said. “I’m not going to say they were easy layups, but they were makeable. If they push out, you gotta be able to finish at the rim.”
Keith struggled in the second half as well with only 2 points, but Tyler Haddock, Logan Cagle and Ethan Bell picked up the slack, combining for 19 of the Cardinals’ 24 points.
Haddock finished with 11 points and four rebounds, and Cagle and Bell added 8 and 5 points, respectively.
Elsewhere, Trent Haddock (5 points) and Brant Hager (8 points) led Verdigris on the boards with nine rebounds apiece.
“They came out of a zone into the corner so I couldn’t get my shots off, but my teammates picked it up,” Keith said.