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Dragons conquer Mother Road

Purcell wins Verdigris’ Mother Road Classic Tournament


Purcell won the first annual Verdigris Tournament and earning the championship while playing schools in 4A and 5A.

The Dragons, who knocked off host 4A Verdigris 55-40 on Thursday to open the tournament, played each night at 8:30 not getting home until 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

The teams stayed up in the northeastern part of the state both Thursday and Friday nights.

Malachi Evans led the Dragons with 18 points in that victory while Kobe Freeman added 16.

The Mother Road Classic would have been a Mother Road travel extravaganza with the three up and backs totalling 954 total miles.

In the semifinals, Purcell caged the No. 12 5A Tahlequah Tigers, 55-44, led by Freeman’s 16 and Hayden Ice’s 15 point games.

The finals was a defensive showcase with Purcell downing 5A No. 10 Coweta 44-42 behind Ice with 13 and Evans with an even dozen.

Those three wins for the Dragons coupled with a 63-53 home court victory over Bridge Creek earlier in the week hiked their season total to 10-0 heading into Tuesday night’s road trip to No. 14 Marlow.

Purcell’s road warriors are at Lexington Friday and at Washington January 17 before hosting the annual Heart of Oklahoma Tournament January 19-21.

In that Bridge Creek victory Freeman led all scorers with 23 points and was joined in double digits by Ice with 15 and Evans with 10.

Evans was a magician at the line during the Verdigris tournament going 21-23. He was 12-13 in the Verdigris win, 5-6 against Tahlequah and a perfect 4-4 in the finals. Freeman hit a trio of treys against Tahlequah.

“We had a great weekend,” head coach Roger Raper said.

“The key to it all is that we played extremely hard in all three games. Our defense all year long has been strong, holding our opponents to 41.5 points per game,” he said.

And it was no different in the tournament.

Hayden Ice and Malachi Evans were named to the All Tournament team and Kobe Freeman was named the Tournament MVP.

“We saw three different types of teams and were able to adjust to each style,” the coach said.

“We still have lots of room to improve as we have not had all of our weapons on offense have good games on the same night.

“That is a strength of this team, though,” Raper confirmed. “Each night someone different can lead us in scoring. Also, our bench was awesome all weekend long.

“Noah Mason, Braydon Tharp, Hayden Renfro and Kylen DeFreeze are all becoming more and more comfortable on the court,” Raper said.

Each of those players bring a different strength to the team.

“That helps make us complete,” the coach said.

“Hayden Ice and Lincoln Eubank both are finally getting into a rhythm on the offensive end that we knew they were capable of producing each night.

“We must continue to work as our conference is loaded with great teams and the HOOT is only a few weeks away.

“I’m very proud of our guys and very thankful for all the fans that made the trip to Verdigris,” Raper concluded.

Coach Toney Cooper’s Dragons went 1-3 in the tournament on the heels of bludgeoning Bridge Creek, 89-41 January 2.

Four Dragons were in double figures in that victory led by KK Eck’s 16. She nailed four buckets from downtown while Haven Buchanan hit three treys to finish with 14 points.

Kenna Esparza was right behind Eck with 15 and Jenna Avery added a baker’s dozen.

Purcell played nothing but ranked 5A teams in the Verdigris Tournament.

They dropped a close 68-61 contest at the hands of No. 4 Will Rogers on Thursday only to bounce back to post a 49-28 victory over No. 15 Bishop Kelly Friday.

They forced overtime in the consolation finals against No. 20 Coweta only to fall 47-45.

Esparza canned six treys in the contest including one in the overtime period to finish with 20 points. Ella Resendiz added a charity toss in the extra frame.

Esparza paced the Dragons against Will Rogers with 15 while Resendiz dropped in 13.

“We knew going in that this was going to be a very competitive tournament given the field of teams involved,” Cooper said.
“Opening with Will Rogers, we did not get off to a good start being down big after the first quarter,” the coach said.

Purcell was in a 24-11 hole at the end of the first period.

The Dragons were able to claw their way back into the game but too many turnovers doomed Purcell.

“It was a very physical game and I was proud of our effort. We got down to a really good team and responded well. I truly love the fight within this team,” Cooper said.

In the victory over No. 16 Bishop Kelly 10 Dragons scored led by sophomore Tinley Winters with 10.

“The team wasted no time and got off to an impressive start led by Tinley Winters,” Cooper said. “ Haven Buchanan continued her solid play as well. Overall, good team effort and our girls were able to get their first victory at Verdigris. It was a good bounce back game for us.”

Turnovers were the Dragon’s bugaboo in the overtime loss to Coweta.

“It’s hard to beat any team when you commit 20 plus turnovers in a game,” Cooper said.

“We did a great job limiting their best player, Lauren Holmes was incredible defensively,” the coach said.

“We got solid defense from Hadleigh Harp, also,” Cooper said.

In the second half Ella’s post play got us back into the game, complimented by big shots from Kenna and Jenna down the stretch,” Cooper said.

The No. 11 ranked girls were 7-3 heading into Tuesday’s road trip to Marlow.

Dragon notes:

The victory over Coweta not only earned the Dragons and coach Roger Raper the championship but it was also Raper’s 100th victory as head coach of Purcell.

The Dragons moved up a notch and are now ranked No. 1 in Class 3A.


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