TULSA – While University of Arkansas signee Rotnei Clarke and future Oklahoma State Cowboy Keiton Page both lived up to their billing at the Expo Square Pavilion, it was Alex Hansen who ended up being the difference.
Clarke poured in a game-high 34 points, but his good friend Page's 28 points was backed up by Hansen's 16 to lead Pawnee over Verdigris 57-49 Friday afternoon at before an estimated 4,100 fans at the 43rd annual Cherokee Nation Enterprises Tournament of Champions.
Hansen's 16 was one point more than the other six Verdigris players besides Clarke combined to score on the day when the consolation round game was pushed back 30 minutes to allow the crowd to get in after long lines formed at the ticket office.
"Obviously me and Keiton talked about this game last night," Clarke said. "Obviously a lot of people anticipated this game, which showed by the crowd and the 30-minute wait for it. We enjoyed it. When we were out there playing, I would tell him good move and he told me good block on that one play. We just had fun with it and it was not that big a deal to us."
It was a match-up of the two leading active career scorers in Oklahoma prep basketball – both closing in on 3,000 career points - and both certainly had their moments for Class 3A top-ranked Verdigris and Class 2A No. 1 Pawnee.
"it was a great game for Oklahoma basketball," noted Verdigris head coach Conley Clarke, Rotnei's uncle. "There was absolutely no doubt as far as that is concerned. There needs to be more of those when we have the opportunity."
The 6-1, 180-pound Clarke was 11-of-22 from the field, 7 of 15 from 3-point range, 5-of-5 from the free throw line and also chipped in 7 rebounds for Verdigris (6-3).
The 5-10, 170-pound Page was 6-of-11 from the field , 3-of-6 from 3-point range and buried 13-of-15 free throws, including four down the stretch to aid the Bears (3-2).
"I'm just glad it is over with," Page said. "We knew he was a great player. I played against him before in AAU ball. We knew we were going to have to come out there and guard him tough. I didn't think he would be as tough as he was though. He is a great shooter."
Clarke now has 2,865 points in his career while Page has 2,601 as both chase Ty Harman's state career scoring mark of 3,639.
Both stars played at less than full strength with Page spending six hours in a Cushing hospital last night getting an IV for cramping and Clarke playing with problems involving both of his feet.
"Last night was a bad night," Page said. "I went over to St. Francis (hospital in Tulsa) because of cramping to get me an IV. But they told me it would be a six-hour weight so we ended up driving to Cushing Hospital and they didn't put the IV in me until 2:30 or 3 in the morning. I ended up getting back to the hotel around 4:35 and that's when I finally got to bed. My dad took the team to breakfast this morning and I just slept in until the buses fired up."
Clarke did his interviews while on the trainer's table with one foot being addressed because of a rip in his big toe and the other with a major abrasion on the bottom of it.
"That's pretty nasty, huh? Clarke acknowledged.
Hansen had 5 3-pointers among his 16 points with three of them helping open up a cushion in the first half and the other two being big shots late.
"Alex is a great shooter, but had struggled at the first of the year during our first couple of games," Page said. "Tonight he just stepped up, made big shots and we are real proud of him."
Verdigris will play Bixby in its tournament finale on Saturday at noon while Pawnee will battle Stringtown at 1:30 p.m.
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