Not only was Monday's win an upset for the Verona Wildcats, it was a historic milestone. In defeating the fourth-seeded School of the Ozarks Patriots 65-50, the fifth-seeded Wildcats earned their first ever win at the Class 2 basketball level, having always played in district and state competition as a Class 1 school.
The Wildcats did not appear at all intimidated by the new challenge, jumping out to a significant lead after one quarter. The offense wasted no time getting going, as four Verona three-pointers helped the team to a 20-7 advantage by the end of the first period.
The Wildcats hit another trey to start off the second quarter, but points would be harder to come by in the second eight minutes of the contest. The Patriots battled back into the game, forcing turnovers and using the energy of the crowd to make it a 29-26 game going into halftime.
The third quarter would be another rough one for the Verona offense, as the Wildcats were only able to score three times. Luckily, the Patriots did not fare much better, and the teams went into the final quarter deadlocked at 35 points each.
A basket by junior Caleb Hillhouse gave the Wildcats the lead again 10 seconds into the fourth quarter, and the Verona offense picked up where it left off at the end of the first. Coach Brad Stewart's team scored 30 points in the final period -- including 19 from the free throw line -- to advance safely to the semifinal round.
Hillhouse and classmate Eddie Gutierrez shared the team lead on the night with 19 points each, while fellow junior Kolton Pinkly was not far behind with 18. Austin Valdez added eight for the Wildcats and Anthony Martinez finished with one.
Verona advanced to face top seed and host school Blue Eye in the semifinals, a game originally scheduled for Wednesday but pushed back to Thursday due to inclement weather. See next week's sports section for the results.