CATOOSA - The No.14 Verdigris Cardinals beat the Checotah Wildcats 41-30 in the Class 4A girls area basketball playoffs Thursday afternoon at the Catoosa Indian Activity Center.
The Cardinals (21-6) play(ed) No. 11 Oologah or No. 9 Perkins Friday at 1:30 in Catoosa. The Mustangs and Demons squared off Thursday night.
Callie Battenfield paced Verdigris with 11 points. Teammates Megan Turner and Alissa Ryan finished with nine and eight points, respectively. Olivia Clayton had a game-high 15 points for the Wildcats (10-17).
"We wanted the tempo to be a little faster and get (Checotah) out of their comfort zone," said Verdigris head coach Mike Buntin. "We were successful at that in spurts."
The game was tight throughout, but the Cardinals always seemed to have a response when Checotah made a push. Verdigris held narrow leads of 12-10 after the first quarter and 17-16 at the half.
The Cardinals then opened the second half with a spurt, but the Wildcats answered with six consecutive points to get within 26-24 at the 1:10 mark of the third period.
Verdigris countered though and took a 30-24 advantage after three quarters, thanks to buckets from Turner and Lexy Borgstadt in the final minute of the frame.
Checotah was down 35-30 midway through the final period, but the Cardinals clamped down on defense and didn't allow another point the rest of the way.
"I'm really proud that we had an answer every time they made a run," said Buntin. "Defensively we were solid. I knew they would do some things that would give us trouble, but we made some adjustments and locked down late."
Battenfield, Turner, Borgstadt, and Kayla Darden all split a pair of free throw attempts in the final 1:16. Borgstadt also came up with a key offensive rebound after one of those missed free throws.
"This time of year is about survive and advance," said Buntin. "I'm really proud of the grit and toughness we exhibited the entire game. That's what it takes to win this time of year."