LOCUST GROVE – They say time flies when you’re having fun, and that was true for Kate Wiginton on Thursday afternoon.
In a game that featured a running clock in the second half, the Verdigris freshman enjoyed a 13-point, two-rebound outing as the Class 4A No. 5 Lady Cardinals topped Nathan Hale 71-11 in the first round of the Bank of Locust Grove Invitational at Pirate Arena. Seven of her points came during the expedited second half.
“I was just having fun,” said Wiginton, who has made an immediate impact for the perennial power at just over four points per game. Thursday’s game was her second-highest scoring performance, behind only her 16 points against Miami on Dec. 14.
“It’s fun and really exciting that I can be a part of it,” she added.
Wiginton was one of 13 players to score against the Lady Rangers, for Verdigris’ early domination allowed for reserves to see some varsity action. As usual, Morgan Borgstadt led the team with 21 points an five rebounds, but the younger players are who stood out to Lady Cardinals coach Mike Buntin.
Of the 13 scorers, eight managed at least four points. Regular starter Maddy Daniels grabbed a team-high seven rebounds to go along with six points.
“It was good for us to get a lot of kids in there,” Buntin said. “We have a lot of inexperienced kids – I’ve said that a lot this year – and we’re trying to get them on the floor just to see what we have and if we can continue to develop. I saw a lot of good things from some people today.”
Although the offense certainly helped that come to fruition, the defense was nearly flawless.
Verdigris forced 27 turnovers, including 20 in the first half, and held Nathan Hale scoreless in the second and third quarters as part of a 40-0 run that saw a 25-8 lead grow to 65-8 before Deanna Robinson ended the drought a 3-pointer with 4:52 remaining in the fourth.
The Lady Rangers finished with only three field goals – all of which were 3-balls – compared to the Lady Cardinals’ 27. Amontanise Randolph managed six points and six rebounds while Robinson added five and one.
“Selfishly, of course you’d love to shut someone out completely,” Buntin said. “But you feel for teams like that. (Lady Rangers coach Wes Hamilton) had two girls suspended before they left, and he’s such a good guy. You just want to feel a little sympathetic for him.”
Nathan Hale did best Verdigris in one category, though.
The Lady Rangers made both their free throws, which Robinson hit for the first points of the game. Verdigris went 5-of-13, missing its first six. Wiginton was the only Lady Cardinal to make consecutive shots from the line.
Despite those uncharacteristic woes, Buntin is happy to be back in the win column. Verdigris suffered a 49-36 upset loss to Rogers County rival Inola on Tuesday.
“After coming off a big loss on Tuesday, it was easy to get their focus,” Buntin said. “Regardless of who the competition was, they were ready to get back on the court and play. We had our best practice of the year (Wednesday), and we had probably our best walkthrough right before we left today, so you could tell the girls were ready to play today.
“They were wanting to get that bad taste out of their mouth.”
Verdigris advanced to play Coweta in the semifinals Friday afternoon. Read correspondent Glenn Hibdon’s story from that game this weekend on claremoreprogress.com.