FORT GIBSON —
The No. 4-ranked Verdigris Cardinals hit cruise control in the second half and made a ‘STATE’ment Friday night with a 71-43 victory over the No. 5 Sperry Pirates in the Class 3A Area Tournament at Fort Gibson High School.
Behind sophomore point guard Cade Upshaw’s 14 points, the Cardinals punched their ticket to the state tournament later this week in Oklahoma City.
After splitting the first two meetings in the regular season, Friday night proved by all Verdigris as the Cardinals outscored Sperry, 39-21 after halftime.
Under veteran head coach Randy Upshaw, the Cardinals continue their journey toward a long-awaited Class 3A State Championship with a 23-4 overall record.
Verdigris’ next opponent will be determined on Monday and the state tournament will start Thursday night.
Sperry clang to a 18-16 first quarter lead, but the Cardinals hit a barrage of three-pointers right before halftime to outscore the Pirates, 16-3, and carry a 32-21 lead into the break.
Upshaw and Leonard Brockup combined for four treys in the second quarter to spark the Cardinals’ scoring run.
Verdigris found success from the perimeter early and often — hitting seven treys in the first half.
Chase Bryant, Blake Battenfield and Tyler Monroe capitalized from behind the arc in the opening quarter to ignite the Cardinals.
Battenfield scored 10 of his 11 points in the first 16 minutes — including eight in the first quarter.
The Cardinals poured it on in the third quarter and extended their double-digit lead to 55-32.
Along with Upshaw and Battenfield, Monroe added 10 points while Bryant had nine. Brockup and Dakota Brasher also contributed with six points each.
Sperry’s offense became stagnant in the second quarter as 6-foot-6 post Casey Cole was limited to three points and three fouls.
Colton Mullins kept Sperry within reach of the Cardinals early in the first half with nine of his 13 points.
Peyton Pratt powered the Sperry offense with a team-high 14 points.
The 28-point victory over the Pirates was the largest of the season — and couldn’t have come at a better time for the Cardinals.
Sperry (22-4) dropped to the loser’s bracket and faced Adair Saturday night in the consolation finals