Ninnekah gave the Verden High School boys basketball team a challenge for most of Tuesday's game, but the Tigers' size and experience won out in the end.
The Tigers beat the Owls in Ninnekah, 51-34, helped out by a big game by Verden center Tyler Amoss.
Amoss scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, six of those on offense. He led all scorers and rebounders in the game.
"We've got some pretty good size and some experience down there," head coach Cody McHugh said. "We have two seniors that can play down low, and they did a good job."
Both teams struggled on offense in the early going, and neither team scored until three and a half minutes had passed. Verden was a little sloppy with the ball early, and missed two makeable layups, but led 10-7 after the first quarter.
Ninnekah kept it close in the second quarter as well, and was only down five points at halftime.
"Ninnekah gave us everything we wanted tonight," McHugh said. "They're well-coached and they fought hard."
The Tigers were able to pull away in the third quarter, opening up a double-digit lead as Verden began to impose its will inside offensively and holding the Owls to five third-quarter points.
Verden executed well in the half-court offense most of the game, largely due to the consistency of its two main ballhandlers, Dusty Keil and Trystan Morgan.
"We can get it into our offense, and that means we can get it into our big guys," McHugh said. "And those two guys are our best defenders, so they always have the job of guarding the other teams' best players. So when one gets a little bit tired, its always nice to know there's another guy that can get us into our offense. It's a definite luxury."
With so many key players returning from last season's team, the Tigers have a potential to be much-improved from last season, said McHugh.
"They're high," McHugh said of the expectations for his team this year. "We should do better than we did last year. But that's just me, my expectations are always high. We have a good group of kids, they work hard, so if we just keep getting better we'll control what we can do."
Verden's next game is scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday at home against Fort Cobb. Ninnekah will play Cyril on the road at 8 p.m. Friday.
Lady Tigers pull out close win
The Verden High School girls basketball team barely beat Ninnekah on Tuesday night at Ninnekah High School.
The Tigers beat the Lady Owls 42-38, with both teams having their highest scoring quarter in the fourth.
Verden head coach Ryan Perry said he expected a tough game going into Ninnekah.
"This is always a tough game," Perry said. "It's a rivalry game, and it's going to be tough."
Leading scorers on both sides were on the bench for the last few minutes of the game.
Katie Embry, who led Verden with 19 points and 13 rebounds, fouled out with 2:55 left in the game, getting called for a reach-in foul after missing a layup.
Verden's second-leading scorer, Cheyenne Hannah, had 13 points and 11 rebounds, and she fouled out with 1:36 left. Ninnekah's Cheyenne Morris had 10 points and 11 rebounds, and fouled out with 1:59 left.
"It wasn't the situation we had hoped for going down the stretch, but the girls persevered and played through it, and played like champions," Perry said of losing his two key players late.
Ninnekah was down 25-22 going into the fourth quarter. Verden tried to slow the game down, taking its time in the half-court offense, but the Lady Owls stayed aggressive on defense and forced some turnovers by getting in passing lanes.
With six minutes left to play, Morris hit a pull-up 3-point shot to tie the game at 27. Over the next few minutes, Verden put was able to extend its lead to six, but Ninnekah made a last run.
The Lady Owls pulled within one point, 39-38, with a layup by Rayna Dinsmore, but those would be their last points.
With the score 41-38 after some Verden free throws, Ninnekah missed two 3's with fewer than 15 seconds left, and was forced to intentionally foul. Verden made one free throw to seal the game.
Both teams scored a majority of their points in the paint, but Verden's duo of post players, Embry and Hannah, led the team to the win.
"It's got to carry us," Perry said of the Tigers' inside game. "If you've watched a team of mine play in the last four years, that's an emphasis."
The Verden girls will host Fort Cobb at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Ninnekah's next game is scheduled at Cyril at 6:30 p.m. Friday.