Verdigris’ torrid shooting finally cooled in the second half, but the Cardinals held on to beat Arnett 71-67 on Friday in consolation bracket play of the Tournament of Champions at Mabee Center.
The victory sent the Cards to Saturday’s fifth-place game at 1:30 p.m.
Fourth-ranked Class 3A Verdigris (9-2) hit 61 percent from the field in the first half, but converted just 7-of-24 second half attempts in losing an early 18-point lead. Meanwhile, second-ranked Class B Arnett finished hitting 55 percent and survived 21 turnovers in nearly making good on its rally.
The Wildcats (9-4) trailed 29-14 after one period and 42-24 in the second before their second half comeback. Early on, the Cardinals simply shot over Arnett’ 2-3 zone defense, making 4-of-8 three-points in the opening frame and 6-of-13 in the half.
Arnett began whittling away at the Verdigris lead in the third period, slicing its 46-29 halftime deficit to 46-38 and 48-40 before the Cardinals regrouped to lead 57-42 on Cade Upshaw’s hoop from the lane.
Down by eight starting the final quarter, Arnett ignited a frantic rally. Nicholas Smith dropped in a layup and 6-foot-4 Tyler Tune meshed a turnaround shot in the lane to make it 57-53.
Smith scored in the lane, Tune laced two free throws and Garret Collins made one of two foul shots as the Wildcats crept within 59-58 at the 4:01 mark.
Blake Battenfield, who scored 17 points to back Upshaw’s 19, tallied on a layup, drew a foul from Tune, and added the bonus as the Cardinals lead grew to 62-58 with 3:35 remaining. Leonard Brockup and Upshaw knocked down treys to open a 68-62 lead in final minute and Verdigris held on.
Tune scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to pace the Wildcats.