CHOUTEAU—Brock Fugate did his best impersonation of a fireman Thursday afternoon.
Fugate stoked the flames for Verdigris by scoring the game’s first 10 points then doused the final flicker of a Westville comeback with late free throws to lead the Cardinals to a 59-50 victory in the opening round of the Chouteau Invitational Tournament.
In girls’ tournament bracket action, Verdigris started slowly but Lexy Borgstadt came off the bench to notch game highs with 21 points and nine rebounds to help Verdigris post a 48-36 win in opening-round play Thursday and extend the Cardinals winning streak to 12 games.
Fugate, a 6-foot-1 junior forward, started the boys’ game like a house on fire, personally staking the Class 4A Cardinals (6-9) to a 10-0 lead as they opened the game with 15 unanswered points.
Fugate tallied 15 of his game-high 28 points in the opening quarter, which ended with Verdigris ahead comfortably by a 23-7 margin. He added another basket in a 6-0 run to start the second period for a 29-7 cushion.
The Cardinals took a 34-18 lead into halftime. Fugate ended the half not missing a shot by going 6-for-6 from the floor, including a 3-pointer. He also was perfect on his four free throw attempts.
“He got off to a great start and did a good job for us,” Verdigris head coach Chris Houk said about Fugate, who also grabbed a game-best nine boards.
Fugate’s play helped the Cardinals finish the half 13-of-18 from the field (72.2 percent). The Cardinals also had a 13-4 rebounding edge at the break.
But Class 3A Westville (5-9) wasn’t finished. With Kegan Bradford scoring 12 of his team-high 16 points after halftime, the Yellowjackets closed to within six on two occasions in the final two minutes.
Fugate, though, ended any Westville hopes with five free throws in the final 62 seconds to seal the win. He ended 10-of-12 at the charity stripe.
Houk was not happy with his team’s inability to put the game away after a big halftime advantage.
“We need to finish,” Houk said. “At halftime, we talked about coming out in the second half and putting the pedal on the gas. But we did not do that. We lacked intensity.”
Ten second-half turnovers by Verdigris also aided Westville in its comeback.
Tyler Haddock chipped in nine points for the Cardinals while Trent Haddock had six on a pair of first-half 3-pointers. Nine Cardinals logged points.
With the win, Verdigris advances to meet Class 2A Rejoice Christian in the semifinals at 5:40 p.m. Friday. The Class 2A No. 13 Eagles (11-5) defeated Chouteau 76-38 on Thursday.
Verdigris 48, Rejoice Christian 35 (girls): The Cardinals (13-2) made only one field goal in the first six minutes to trail 11-6 before Borgstadt, the team’s super-sub, entered.
The sophomore guard scored five straight points, including a pair of free throws to ignite a 16-3 blitz that gave the Cardinals a 24-16 advantage—their largest of the first half—with 3:32 to play before halftime.
“Lexy finally relaxed and just played,” Verdigris head coach Mike Buntin said about Borgstadt, who ended the uprising by following her own missed shot in a seven-point, six-rebound first half that ended with Verdigris ahead 28-21.
Megan Turner also had a pair of 3-pointers, off assists from Callie Battenfield, during the big run
“We started to do what we were supposed to do offensively,” Buntin said.
“We started off playing very tentatively.”
Verdigris also had to contend with Eagles guard Maddie Curtis, who notched 13 first-half points with nine points coming from beyond the arc.
“She’s maybe the best guard we have seen this season,” Buntin said of Curtis.
But Verdigris slowed down Curtis in the second half, holding her to just seven points including only two in the final quarter.
Rejoice would close to within one, 31-30 on a Curtis trey with 3:18 remaining in the third period, but that is as close as the Eagles would get.
Borgstadt tallied four of her team’s final five points of the quarter then amassed 10 of the Cardinals’ 12 points in the final period as Verdigris pulled away.
The Cardinals defense took over in the fourth quarter, not allowing a point until Curtis canned a jumper with 1:22 to go. By that time, Rejoice was facing a 16-point deficit.
Alissa Ryan contributed 10 points and four rebounds for Verdigris.
The Cardinals will meet the winner of the Westville-Okay contest at 4:20 p.m. in Friday’s semifinals.