By Nick Hampton
FORT GIBSON — Senior Alyssa Banks tried to carry Eufaula to the Class 3A state tournament.
But in the end, it just wasn’t quite enough.
Although she scored 27 points to lead the way, the Verdigris Lady Cardinals were up to the task defensively to hold off the feisty Lady Ironheads 51-45 in the Class 3A Area III consolation finals at Harrison Field House on Saturday night.
No. 5 Verdigris (24-4) owned a 10-9 lead after the first quarter and it looked like they might run away from the Lady Ironheads. The Lady Cardinals went on a 9-2 run to start the second quarter.
But Eufaula (20-8), ranked No. 8 in the final Okrankings.com poll, fought back to keep Verdigris off the scoreboard for the last 3 1/2 minutes of the quarter while rattling off six unanswered points, shaved the deficit to 19-16 at the half.
The Lady Cardinals managed to stretch the lead to seven points throughout most of the third quarter as junior Baileigh O’Dell scored seven of her team-leading 19 points in the quarter, helping Verdigris to a 33-26 lead at the end of three.
Banks, though, scored 13 points in the final quarter, mostly on drives to the basket, including one spectacular two-handed scoop from the left side of the basket.
Verdigris held a 41-30 lead with 5 1/2 minutes to play, but got sloppy with their ball handling, committing four straight turnovers and missing a couple of one-and-one opportunities.
That allowed Banks and company to claw to within four points at 49-45 with 25 seconds left. Verdigris missed the front end of a one-and-one with 14.5 seconds showing, but the Lady Ironheads threw an errant pass that was intercepted by Stacia Payne. She was fouled on her break to the basket and hit a pair of free throws with 5.7 seconds left to put it away.
“I was so proud of them. That bounce back just shows you our resolve,” said a disappointed Eufaula head coach Jordan Garner. “We’ve had that never-give-up attitude all season and it showed out on the floor tonight. It wasn’t over until the final buzzer sounded.”
Added Banks, “We had great teamwork tonight and did the little things when they counted. Things could have ended better, but I’m looking forward to the next chapters in my life and I wish my teammates the best.”
Janet Hill was the only other Lady Ironhead in double figures with 10 points.
Besides O’Dell, Verdigris also had one other player in double figures as Payne had 10 points.