CHOUTEAU—The Verdigris High School girls’ basketball team experienced a relatively unfamiliar taste Saturday night.
The bitter taste of defeat.
Ice-cold shooting, turnovers and missed scoring opportunities at the end of regulation and overtime combined to be the Achilles heel for the Cardinals in a 33-28 loss to Chouteau in the championship game of the Chouteau Invitational Tournament.
The loss, the team’s first since a one-point setback to Class 5A No. 2 Pryor on Dec. 3, snapped a 13-game winning streak for Class 4A No. 14 Verdigris (14-3).
Meanwhile, the Verdigris boys sprinted to a 19-point halftime lead on-- the way to a 58-45 win against Class 3A No. 17 Salina to capture third place in the tournament.
Chouteau 33, Verdigris 28 (girls): Amazingly, the Cardinals connected on just 6 of 39 field goals (15.4 percent)—missing 15 of 16 3-pointers—scored just one field goal in each of the final three quarters of regulation and committed 15 turnovers yet still had chances to escape with a win in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.
“It was a great atmosphere for high school basketball,” Verdigris head coach Mike Buntin said about the rowdy crowd on hand on the Wildcats’ home floor.
“They just executed better than we did and made some big shots at crucial times.”
After Alissa Ryan hit a pair of free throws to give Verdigris a 21-19 lead with 4:46 to play in the fourth period, Class 2A No. 9 Chouteau (13-4) canned back-to-back 3-pointers—its first treys since the first quarter—to take a 25-21 lead with 3:27 to go.
The Cardinals still trailed 27-23 with two minutes left but a pair of free throws by Kayla Darden and a basket by Kylee McGuire off a steal in the backcourt drew the Cardinals even at 27 at the 1:41 mark.
“We stayed together and definitely showed a lot of grit in coming back late,” Buntin said.
But the Cardinals then missed four free throws in the final 48 seconds, and when a Wildcats shot came up short at the horn, the game went to overtime still knotted 27-27.
Verdigris drew first blood with a free throw by Darden, who went 7-of-8 at the line and topped the Cardinals with nine points.
But Chouteau answered with yet another basket beyond the arc to take the lead for good. Missed 3-pointers and a turnover—one of nine in the second half—prevented Verdigris from staging another rally.
“We can learn from this game,” Buntin said. “This type of game will definitely help us come playoff time playing in an atmosphere like we had tonight. It will also help us with late-game situations.”
The victory for the Wildcats avenged a 56-45 loss to the Cardinals Jan. 11 in the semifinals of the Locust Grove Tournament. Verdigris went on to win the tourney title.
Lexy Borgstadt netted five points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds for Verdigris. Callie Battenfield contributed seven boards.
Verdigris 58, Salina 45: In a rematch of the third place game Jan. 12 in the Locust Grove Tournament, Verdigris once again toppled the Wildcats (9-7).
The Cardinals (7-10) wasted little time taking command as 3-pointers by Brock Fugate, Michael Anderson, Trent Haddock and Tyler Haddock helped stake Verdigris to an 18-6 first-quarter advantage.
Leading 39-26 after three quarters, reserve Jaren Keith buried a pair of treys and fellow reserve Garrett Still scored off an inbounds play as part of a 10-0 Verdigris run to open the final period.
“Finally, we put two (solid) halfs together,” Cardinals head coach Chris Houk said. “That was our focus today.”
Verdigris finished the game 8-of-17 from long distance (47.1 percent) and 14-of-17 at the free throw line (82.4 percent) to shake off a 13-point semifinal loss just one day earlier against Rejoice Christian.
“I thought the kids played well. Today was a new day,” Houk said. “That started yesterday when we didn’t quit after being 19 down at the half (against Rejoice).”
Tyler Haddock had 13 points while Anderson added 11. The duo combined to make good on 11-of-12 free throws.
Fugate also chipped in 11 points and Keith tallied 10. Trent Haddock came up with seven rebounds as the Cardinals held a 30-20 edge on the boards.