January 12, 2014

LGI: Pirates rumble past Verdigris for title

January 12, 2014 Chuck Porter Sports Editor

LOCUST GROVE, OK — Tyler Rowland scored 24 points, tournament MVP Mason Fine added 16 and Locust Grove claimed the 2014 Bank of Locust Grove Invitational championship with a 63-51 win over Verdigris at Pirate Arena Saturday.

"We've been in the finals every year that I've been here, and we've played some good teams," Locust Grove head coach Ronnie Maple said. "That was just a good playoff basketball game. I don't like that the tournament ended up as a three-day deal, but that's how we have to prepare on a Thursday-Friday-Saturday for regional, area and the state tournament."

Class 4A's No. 12 Locust Grove (7-1) never trailed and led by as many as 16 points, but Class 3A's No. 3 Cardinals flew back to make it a 45-43 game late in the third quarter thanks to pressure defense on the perimeter and a few controversial calls in Verdigris' favor.

In the end, the Pirates relied on a familiar formula — get the ball inside to junior big man Colton Pike — to seal the win. Pike scored nine of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, which saw the Pirates reestablish a double-digit lead.

"We knew we'd get some looks inside the way they were taking away our guards late in that third quarter," Maple said. "I'll take Colton one-on-one versus anybody."

Rowland, an All-Tournament selection, rattled in some huge buckets late in the game and emphatically blocked a Laef Payne runner in the closing moments. That put an exclamation mark on LG's victory in an increasingly loud and heated game.

"We missed a couple set calls just because it was so loud, but that's how it's going to be in the playoffs," Maple said. "It's good for us. You get more accustomed to looking around and being aware."

Cardinals Caleb Jones (19 points, eight rebounds) and Cade Upshaw (nine points) were named to the All-Tournament team, joining the Pirates' Zach Robinson and Cascia Hall's Bryce Carter.

Locust Grove's Tyler Halpain scored four points. "My lone senior [Halpain] got to go out and win his own tournament, and I couldn't be more proud of him," Maple said.

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