What started as a slow moving, Verden-dominated match-up turned into a thrilling Oklahoma Christian Academy win, as they battled back to progress in the Grady County tournament.
A made foul shot by Garrett Duckworth sealed the 42-41 win for the Eagles to send them through to the semifinals to face Alex on Friday.
Whatever was preventing points in the first quarter, it did so for both teams. It ended at a lowly 6-4, with Colton Haxton’s buzzer beating three pointer providing the difference for Verden. The only other bucket in the first frame for the Tigers came from Dustin Keil, and that’s all he needed to get going.
Keil led the floor easily by halftime, tallying two more threes and a layup to help Verden to an 11-4 run. OCA were left frustrated time and time again, with close-range jumpers bouncing out. They got enough by halftime to only be down by seven. Asa Kingsley’s work down low kept the deficit from being larger.
The Eagles came out strong in the third quarter, but were pegged back by Keil once again. Garrett Duckworth used his size to grab a few put-back jumpers in from the low block. Keil struck back with a three, and then another, along with a breakaway layup to extend Veden’s lead to 10. He seemed to be the only Tiger scoring, however, underscored by their struggles to hold onto the ball as the game went on. The Eagles defense made things confusing enough to cause the turnovers they needed.
But they were unable to capitalize on most of those chances, leaving the door open for Verden to build on their 31-20 lead going into the fourth quarter. Caleb Kingsley hit a long three to cut their lead to three with four-and-a-half left. He hit another to cut the deficit to four before Nathaniel Garner hit one more in the corner to cut the lead to just one. Next time down, three close-range jumpers from OCA failed to fall in the basket, despite their dominance on the offensive board.
They benefited from that at the next chance, taking the lead with a put-back layup. A few free throws from Tryston Morgan on a quiet night for the point guard gave the lead back to Verden with under a minute to go. A Caleb Kingsley bucket plus the foul tied the game up 41-41 with 20 seconds to go, but he missed the shot. It was spilled out of bounds by the Tigers in the ensuing scramble, leaving OCA with the last shot. It fell to Duckworth, who was fouled with 0.32 seconds left. He missed the first foul shot, and a Verden timeout raised the tension. The second went in, leaving the Tigers with an impossible shot to make as the buzzer sounded.