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Verdigris' Braxton Repschlaeger (11) goes up for a layup during a game at Oologah last season.

OOLOGAH – When Verdigris began knocking on the door of a blowout, Braxton Repschlaeger kicked it in.

The 6-foot-3 sophomore forward scored 12 of his 20 points in the third quarter, including an emphatic two-handed dunk, as the Cardinals outscored Oologah by 18 in that frame and 22 in the second half en route to a 67-37 season-opening victory Tuesday night.

Although Repschlaeger – who also had four rebounds – has the talent to be a starter, Verdigris coach Chris Houk prefers him to come off the bench because he provides energy, knows his role and is able to be rested enough to finish games.

“He’s the perfect bench guy,” Houk said. “People are going to say, ‘Why doesn’t he start?’, but he’s coming in fresh and gives a lot of energy. If their starters are tired or their second string is coming in, he can dominate. He’s that type of kid where if he sees one go in, that just amps him up. When you get him rolling, it’s really tough to stop him. That was the separator right there. It worked out for us.”

Repschlaeger’s first basket of the second half gave the Cardinals a 30-20 lead, and they never led by less than double digits the rest of the way. Later in the third, he scored eight-consecutive points via two 3-pointers and a layup to push the score to 44-20 before capping the quarter with a fast-break slam on an assist from Dylan White.

White was one of five football players who got minutes despite having been with the team only a day. The Verdigris football team advanced to the Class 3A semifinals, where it was eliminated Friday by Heritage Hall 41-20.

White, Tyler Willis, Cole Finch, Caden Parnell and Austin Boren combined for nine points and eight rebounds. Boren had the most points of the bunch with three while White and Willis paced the footballers’ rebounding efforts with three boards apiece.

Parnell was the only one of the five to not tally a stat in either category.

“At halftime we said we’re just gonna grind it out, do what we do, trust it and see what happens,” Houk said. “Those football guys that came in, we got them yesterday. But we knew their energy was good, their timing and stuff like that. That’s what we needed – that energy – and it worked.”

Junior guard Cody Lechlider led the team with 22 points and six rebounds, and his best quarter also came in the third (seven points). Why? Because the Mustangs were surrendering turnovers at an alarming rate, giving Verdigris ample opportunities to grow its advantage.

It was so bad, in fact, Oologah had more turnovers (27) than points (22) going into the fourth quarter. The Mustangs ended up with a higher point total, but they still finished with 32 giveaways compared to the Cardinals’ 18. Ten of their turnovers came during the third when Verdigris outscored them 23-5 to turn an eight-point halftime lead into a 26-point bulge.

“I don’t know how much of it was our defense because a lot of them were unforced,” Houk said. “But if we give up only 40 points a game, we’ll win a lot of games.”

As a result of all the takeaways, the Cardinals boasted a huge margin at the free-throw line.

Verdigris shot 34 free throws in all, making 23 (67.6%).

Meanwhile, Oologah went only 4-of-11 at the line (36.4%) with no players making consecutive shots. Jaden Tanner made the back end of a three-point play early in the fourth quarter to finish with a team-high 12 points and three rebounds. Eli Despain led the Mustangs on the glass with five rebounds to go along with his four points.

“I think that’s what they were trying to do,” Houk said of Oologah’s foul tendency. “They were trying to ugly it up in hopes of getting in our head, so I was really proud of our guys that we kept our head. Especially Cody because they knew if they could rough him up, he might say something and get out of his game. I think he handled it pretty well.”

VERDIGRIS 67, OOLOGAH 47

VERDIGRIS – Cody Lechlider 22, Braxton Repschlaeger 20, Lemons 7, Brant Teague 4, Brady Teague 3, Boren 3, Willis 2, White 2, Scott 2, Finch 2.

OOLOGAH – Jaden Tanner 12, B. Barron 6, Miller 6, Despain 4, Hoisington 3, Jones 3, Henry 3.

Verdigris 17 23 19 -- 67 
Oologah 10 15 -- 37 

Rebounds: Verdigris (33) – Lechlider 6, Brady Teague 4, Repschlaeger 4, Brant Teague 4, White 3, Willis 3, Scott 3, Large 2, Boren 2, Team 2. Oologah (32) – Team 6, Despain 5, Jones 4, Hoisington 4, Tanner 3, R. Barron 2, Moore 2, Brown 1, Lustig 1, Miller 1, B. Barron 1, Henry 1, Baker 1.

Turnovers: Verdigris 18, Oologah 32

Free throws: Verdigris 23-34, Oologah 4-11

3-pointers: Verdigris (6) – Repschlaeger 2, Lechlider 1, Lemons 1, Brant Teague 1, Boren 1. Oologah (5) – Miller 2, B. Barron 1, Tanner 1, Henry 1.

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