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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Verdigris suffocates P-T to advance to area tournament

Feb. 26—CLEVELAND — Maddy Daniels isn't known for her 3-point shooting prowess.

The senior guard is more of an attacker, getting to the basket via fast-break opportunities she often creates herself with her 2.9 steals per game. She also serves as the primary facilitator and distributor for Verdigris, leading the team with 3 assists per game.

The long ball simply isn't her game, and her 24.7% shooting average at that range heading into Saturday's elimination game backed that up.

However, regardless of the fact that she'd clanked a few in a row — going 0-of-11 from distance through the first three games of the playoffs — Daniels maintained the mindset that the most important shot was always the next one coming off her fingers.

That short memory paid dividends in keeping the Lady Cardinals' season alive.

Daniels buried all three of her triples in the first half, including two in the opening quarter as No. 14 Verdigris scored the first 12 points of the game while cruising to a 59-24 victory over Perkins-Tryon in the Class 4A Area IV Regional Consolation D championship at the Cleveland Event Center.

Daniels finished with 13 points and 2 rebounds despite playing with foul trouble in the second half, and Kate Wiginton joined her in double figures with 16 points and a board.

Luckily for Verdigris, those scoring performances weren't overshadowed by an otherwise mediocre shooting day that saw it shoot 20-of-62 (32.3%) from the floor and 13-of-25 at the free-throw line (52%).

"That's the one frustrating part about us is we shoot so much in practice, and kids stay and shoot on their own so much, but we're just so inefficient on offense," Lady Cardinals coach Mike Buntin said. "If we could ever figure that part out, the sky would be the limit for this team. We have individual pieces, whereas in the past we relied on one ore two people so much. We do rely on Kate for a heavy burden offensively, but we have weapons. We have people, whether it's Maddy or Brynlee (Brown) or two freshman coming off the bench.

"We have a lot of people who can really score, we are just so inefficient."

Verdigris (18-9) more than made up for those struggles with what Buntin called one of his team's best defensive games of the season.

The Lady Cardinals played a suffocating brand of basketball, scoring 33 points off 28 turnovers while holding the Lady Demons to only five field goals overall — three of which came late in the fourth period against the Verdigris reserves — and a shooting average of 10.9%.

P-T trailed 12-0 in the first before Kyndall Marshall notched a rare 4-point play, but the Lady Cardinals responded with a 15-0 run into the second quarter to push the lead to 27-4. Marshall hit 4 free throws before the end of the half, and she was the Lady Demons' lone scorer as Verdigris went into the break with a 35-8 advantage.

P-T (9-17) — which scored all but 11 of its points from the free-throw line — managed its second field goal on a Brynn Stone layup early in the third period, but it wouldn't achieve another one until the trio of Chesni Lowery, Marshall and Krisalyn Fields made three in a row as part of an 11-0 run that saw it meaninglessly trim a 54-13 deficit to 54-24 in the fourth.

Marshall paced the Lady Demons with 12 points and 7 rebounds.

"It was one of our best defensive games, period," Buntin said. "We executed our full-court running jump, we were a little bit more disciplined, we were in the gaps and we forced I don't know how many turnovers, but they couldn't get into their offense. I was really happy with our entire team — every single one of them focused and did what they were supposed to do defensively."

That defensive efficiency came despite P-T grabbing 21 offensive rebounds and 42 overall. Stone gathered 8 offensive boards herself and 11 rebounds total while scoring 5 points, and Savannah Rencher corralled an additional 5 offensive rebounds to finish with 9 boards overall.

The Lady Cardinals eclipsed even those numbers, though, with 48 rebounds — including 25 of the offensive variety. They had 13 players gather at least 1 board, 10 of whom managed an offensive rebound.

Bobbi Jones, Brynlee Brown and Rilyn Stringfellow each had 3 offensive boards to lead the team in that category. Jones (4 points) and Brown (7 points) finished with a team-high 7 rebounds.

Now in the area tournament, Verdigris must face No. 6 Inola for a fourth time this season in an elimination game at 1 p.m. Thursday at the Stroud Route 66 Coliseum. The Lady Cardinals are 0-3 against their Rogers County rival, losing by an average of 12.7 points per game.

The Lady Longhorns (22-4) are coming off a 63-56 loss to No. 9 Locust Grove in the Regional A championship that ended their 11-game winning streak.

"Inola has beaten us three times; we struggled against their really good, fundamental and discipline man (defense)," Buntin said. "... but you gotta beat these teams at some point, so why not do it now and get that momentum rolling? At some point, you're going to have to go through the Locusts, the Inolas and the Forts to get to the state tournament. We'll be ready to play, and we'll have three days to prepare for them.

"Any time our kids have that opportunity to prepare, I like them."