CATOOSA - It was a split decision for the Catoosa Indians and the Verdigris Cardinals on the basketball court Friday night at the Catoosa Indian Activity Center.
The Catoosa boys prevailed 55-51 in a nail biter while the Class 4A No. 15 Verdigris girls cruised to a 56-31 victory.
Catoosa was at Sequoyah Monday and then will be in the Bethany tournament beginning Thursday. Verdigris hosts Inola Tuesday and then will be in the Locust Grove tournament starting Thursday.
VERDIGRIS 51 (boys)
The Indians (6-3) picked up a hard-fought win for their head coach John Coons on his 45th birthday. Gavin Phillips led the charge with 23 points. Brock Fugate also scored 23 for the Cardinals (2-6).
"It was big for these guys," said coach Coons. "We have a lot of experience but they have all been role players so we need to know we can make those plays.. We've played great defense and executed well all year. We've just struggled to score."
Catoosa held a slim 38-36 after three quarters. Things remained close throughout the final stanza. J Coons, son of the head coach, broke a 49-49 tie on a reverse lay in with 1:20 remaining.
Phillips then made both ends of a 1-and-1 with 43.6 seconds left. Fugate answered with a basket ten seconds later.
Following an exchange of turnovers, Phillips again went to the free throw line for a 1-and-1 with 7.1 seconds to play. He made both shots to finally seal the deal.
The Indians were ahead 11-5 after the first period, but Verdigris battled back to forge a 25-25 tie at the half. Phillips and Fugate scored ten and nine points, respectively, in the first half.
Phillips made a 3-pointer with 23 seconds left in the third quarter to give Catoosa its narrow lead heading into the final frame.
That was the only 3-pointer the Indians made in the game. The Cardinals, by contrast, hit eight from 3-point country. Tyler and Trent Haddock each made a trio of 3-pointers and finished with a combined 20 points.
Kobe Reimer, the only reserve who played for the Indians, came up huge as he scored seven of his nine points in the final period.
"Going forward we need to be better on offense," said coach Coons. "Positive is we are defending and executing. We need to keep working every day to be there at the end."
VERDIGRIS 56, CATOOSA 31 (girls)
The Lady Cardinals (6-2) had ten players score. Callie Battenfield and Lexy Borgstadt both finished in double figures with 14 and 12 points, respectively.
Starter Kayla Darden and reserve Grace Bump also had solid efforts for Verdigris. Darden scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds. Bump, a freshman, finished with seven points.
"Considering it was the first game after an extended break I was extremely pleased," said Verdigris head coach Mike Buntin. "We played with great effort. Defensively our pressure allowed us to force numerous turnovers and get easy baskets in transition. When we play with discipline this team is as good defensively as anybody in the state. We are extremely difficult to score on but my concern going forward is our shooting. We are generally getting good shots. We have to get better at making them."
Lunden Hecht and Faith Hopkins both scored 12 points for the Lady Indians (2-7). Teammate Autumn Miller didn't score, but finished with game-high 11 rebounds.
The Lady Cards scored the first five points of the game and eventually led 17-2 after the first quarter. They were up 27-12 at the half.
Catoosa opened the second half with an 8-2 run to cut the deficit to single digits. Verdigris responded though and stretched the advantage to 42-23 after three periods.
The Lady Cardinals then continued their solid play at both ends of the floor in the final quarter en route to the comfortable win.
"It’s definitely going to be tough moving forward," said Buntin. "Our schedule is extremely difficult. Class 4A is by far the toughest in the state. The success of several 4A teams in the elite holiday tournaments showcases the depth of the classification. But I believe we are as good as anyone. If we continue to defend and improve offensively we are going to really difficult to beat."