By BEN JOHNSON
CHECOTAH — Quinton Johnston drove to the rim and not a single Verdigris player followed him. The Cardinals had started waving the white flag.
Class 3A No. 5 Sequoyah wore down the fourth-ranked Cardinals and celebrated its second straight 3A area championship with a 64-55 victory at an overflowing Checotah Event Center on Friday night.
"This is the biggest thing of the year," Sequoyah forward Elijah Tucker said. "When the preseason starts in the summertime, from the first camp to the first practice, this is our goal to get back to the state tournament."
In front of an estimated 1,850 fans in a standing-room only crowd, the Indians (23-3) picked up their state tournament berth by stifling Verdigris (23-4) in the fourth quarter.
After the game was tied at 51 with 5:50 left, Sequoyah scored 13 of the final 17 points of the contest. The Indians put the game away when B.J. Leach converted on an old-fashioned three-point play with 4:02 left.
Sequoyah coasted the rest of the way, including the final 20 seconds as the Indians celebrated by slapping the floor and exchanging high-fives, while Verdigris players stood at the midcourt stripe waiting for the final buzzer to mercifully sound.
"We won the fourth quarter big," said Sequoyah coach Jay Herrin, whose club outscored Verdigris, 17-9, in the final stanza. "We've been a second-half team all year, so I was really proud of our kids for that."
Sequoyah senior Caisen Green led all scorers with 26 points on a 12-of-17 effort from the field. Leach chipped in with 16 points — 10 of which came after halftime.
"We made some plays up this week to help get our guards some mismatches inside and a five-out motion thing so we could get some one-on-one opportunities," Green said.
The game featured 16 ties and 21 lead changes.
Caleb Jones paced Verdigris with 18 points. Tyler Monroe, despite late foul trouble, notched 12 points for the Cardinals, who will take on Antlers in the area consolation game on Saturday night at 8.
Unlike last year's area championship game against No. 1 Oklahoma Centennial, Sequoyah didn't have to overcome an 18-point deficit.
"It was very nice, very nice," said Tucker, whose team trailed Centennial by 15 points at halftime last season. "Nice to go in at halftime tied at 31-31. It was a good feeling."
Herrin felt like his club should of had the upper hand at the break.
"We felt pretty good about the first half, but I thought we left a few points out there," Herrin said. "We gave up a couple of offensive rebounds, and that led to a 3 at the end. We felt like we should of had a five-point lead at the half."
The Indians were consistent from the field and finished with a 25-of-49 shooting performance. Verdigris was 18-of-40 from the floor in the first three quarters, but a three-of-11 showing in the fourth quarter — in addition to eight turnovers — doomed the Cardinals in the final period.
Girls: Verdigris 53, Sequoyah 40
Baileigh O'Dell dribbled to the block and came to a jump stop. She then let Kelsey Leach go flying by.
Yet, somehow, O'Dell missed the wide open layup. That's about the only thing she did wrong against 3A No. 5 Sequoyah.
O'Dell, a 5-foot-5 Lamar signee, scored a game-high 20 points as fourth-ranked Verdigris (25-2) won the Area IV championship while advancing to the 3A state tournament in Oklahoma City.
Leading wire to wire, Verdigris improved to 25-2 and will await its state tournament opponent. Meanwhile, Sequoyah (24-2) had a 22-game winning streak snapped and will take on Vian in the area consolation finals on Saturday night at the Checotah Event Center.
"I think they were the better team tonight, for sure," Sequoyah coach Larry Callison said. "...We had to do some things to stay in the ball game and we didn't, and they were the cause [of that]."
By the time Sequoyah scored its first point of the game on a Loren Young free throw at the 3:05 mark of the first quarter, Verdigris was already up 11-0. The rest of the game followed suit.
It also didn't help that Sequoyah was ice cold from the field. The Lady Indians finished 15-of-46 from the field and didn't have a single scorer in double figures.
"I think they just took us out of our offense," said Callison, who got nine points each from Cenia Hayes and Loren Young. "...When they pressure like that, they're trying to keep you out of your sets. They did a very good job of doing that."
In addition to her four rebounds, four assists and two steals, O'Dell finished seven-of-18 from the floor.
BOYS: Sequoyah 64, Verdigris 55
Seq 15 16 16 17 - 64
Verd 17 14 15 9 - 55
Sequoyah: Caisen Green 26, B.J. Leach 16, Zach Parish 9, Johnston 6, Tucker 5, Collins 2.
Verdigris: Caleb Jones 18, Tyler Monroe 12, Cade Upshaw 10, Peacock 8, Payne 7.
GIRLS: Verdigris 53, Sequoyah 40
Seq 3 9 9 19 - 40
Verd 13 12 18 10 - 53
Sequoyah: Cenia Hayes 9, Loren Young 9, Leach 5, C. Tiger 5, Wright 3, Owl 3, Cookson 2, Polk 2, Flynn 2.
Verdigris: Baileigh O'Dell 20, Keara Battenfield 13, Risenhoover 8, Hanslovan 7, Beck 4, Raines 1.
Class 3A Area IV playoffs
(At Checotah High School)
Game 1: Eufaula 48, Sulphur 45
Game 2: Antlers 57, Metro Christian 43
Game 3: Antlers 49, Eufaula 37
Game 4: Sequoyah 64, Verdigris 55 (winner advances to state)
Game 5: Antlers vs. Verdigris, 8 p.m. (winner advances to state)
Game 1: Vian 47, Wilburton 32
Game 2: Metro Christian 41, Holdenville 37
Game 3: Vian 41, Metro Christian 39
Game 4: Verdigris 53, Sequoyah 40 (winner advances to state)
Game 5: Vian vs. Sequoyah, 6:30 p.m. (winner advances to state)