By Scott Hansen
SKIATOOK, Okla. – Rotnei Clarke has been anointed.
The words written on his shoes said it best, though the meaning of his statement was different than one might think. With 3:14 remaining in the fourth quarter of Verdigris’ 70-51 area final victory over Adair, Clarke was anointed Oklahoma’s scoring king as his free-throw sank through, breaking Ty Harman’s (Maud, 1989) 19-year old all-time state scoring record.
Clarke finished with 37 points and takes his tally of 3,643 points in the Class 3A state tournament next week.
“It’s a great feeling and it’s truly a blessing,” Clarke said. “It's a great accomplishment and I am glad to have it out of the way so I can focus on winning the gold ball. I'm glad it's over with."
Clarke got off to his usual fast start, scoring 14 points in the first quarter. Clarke produced the play of the night, faking a behind the back pass for a lay-up with 5:16 remaining in the first quarter to give the Cardinals a 7-2 lead.
The 6-foot senior continued his torrid pace in the second quarter and got a little help from his teammates. Clarke scored nine second quarrter points, including his only three of the night with four seconds remaining in the half to give Verdigris a 39-24 lead at the break.
Verdigris' 6-7 center Adam Hollon scored 12 points in the first half, going 6-of-6 from the field. Hollon and guard Cole Overholt provided Clarke all the help he would need to ensure the Cardinals were state tournament bound. Overholt knocked down four three-point baskets to pace the Cardinals. Hollon finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocks.
In the second half, Clarke suddenly seemed human to the 5,000-plus at the plush new Dr. Gary Johnson Activity Center. Clarke scored just four points in the third quarter as Adair cut the lead to 51-40.
With 3:40 remaining in the game, Clarke hit a 10-foot runner for his 33rd point of the night to tie Harman. Clarke would obtain the record and help put the game away by hitting all six of his attempts from the charity stripe in the final period.
“I was tired. Adair did a great job defensively and made it tough. I forced some shots. They are a good team and we knew they wouldn’t go away,” said Clarke.
From the second quarter, the Verdigris student section started the countdown. Clarke didn’t realize it until the second half.
“I was too focused on the game to realize they were counting down,” said Clarke, who added three assists and two steals to his game-high 37 points.
Coming with the record was a firestorm of criticism statewide from those who think Verdigris was running up the score so Clarke could get the record.
“I made up my mind early in the season that we were going to do this for him. I didn’t want to look back six months from now and regret that we were so close and didn’t go for it. If people want to be angry, they can be angry with me,” said Kelly Clarke, Verdigris’ head coach and Rotnei’s uncle.
Coach Clarke was happy the record was achieved prior to the state tournament.
“Even professional athletes that are chasing records can make it a distraction. Not only was he chasing a record, but he has another player chasing him, too. It’s impossible to ignore all the attention in the papers, but Rotnei did a good job putting it out of his mind,” Kelly Clarke said.
That other player is Pawnee guard Keiton Page. Page moved to third on the all-time list as his Black Bears pounded Afton in the Class 2A, Area III final, 113-59. Page scored 54 points in the rout to enter the state with 3,571 points. Page, who hit 7-of-10 from three-point range in the victory, needs 69 points to pass Harman.
After snapping the record, numerous press from across the state awaited Clarke, along with hundreds of children seeking his autograph. Clarke even took a seat at the scorers table in an attempt to leave no one empty-handed.
As for the words on Clarke’s shoes, it was not a cocky statement like some might think. Clarke said, “It is something that some fellow preachers said at church. They say I am anointed to play basketball. It didn’t have anything to do with tonight or anything like that.”
Oklahoma All-Time Scoring List
1. Rotnei Clarke, Verdigris, (2008) 3,643
2. Ty Harman, Maud, (1989) 3,639
3. Keiton Page, Pawnee, (2008) 3,571
4. Kelenna Azubuike, Victory Christian, (2002) 3,530
5. Kenneth Johnson, Grandfield, (1979) 3,191
Clarke’s Stats against Adair:
37 points, 3 assists, 2 steals, 13-28 FG, 1-8 3-PT, 10-10 FT
Season Average: 41.2
Total Points (2007-08): 1,112
Page’s Stats against Afton:
54 points, 6 assists, 6 steals, 16-25 FG, 7-10 PT, 15-17 FT
Season Average: 44.2
Total Points (2007-08): 1,149
What Others Said....
KOTV-6 (Tulsa, CBS) video link
The Oklahoman- Ryan Aber
Rotnei Clarke made things interesting.
It took Verdigris' Clarke until well into the fourth quarter, but he got the job done — finally breaking the state's career scoring record on an anticlimactic free throw with 3:14 remaining.
"I heard the crowd going crazy,” Clarke said. "I was just thinking, ‘If I miss this, a lot of these people are going to be disappointed.' ”
Tulsa World- Barry Lewis
It was fitting that the band Europe's 1986 hit song "The Final Countdown" was a musical selection over the public-address system while Verdigris' Rotnei Clarke was shooting in pregame warmups on Friday night.
A little more than an hour later, Clarke finished his pursuit of former Maud standout Ty Harman's Oklahoma career boys high school basketball scoring record.