Pearland captures M.T. Rice tournament title

PEARLAND — For over a dozen years, the Pearland Oilers had participated in the Alvin Lion's Club Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament each December in which they won the tournament in 2003 and 2006. However, Pearland head coach Steve Buckelew and his coaching staff decided to participate in another tournament this season.

That decision proved to be a wise choice as the Oilers played against some great teams, experienced a new tournament, and returned home with the championship trophy giving the Oilers some much needed momentum entering the new year.

Pearland got wins over Georgetown (54-49), Lake Country Christian (68-53), Wanneroo, Australia (59-52), and Leander Rouse (62-55) to propel the Oilers to the championship game against Waco Midway.

Buckelew has found a young star in freshman Ajare Sanni who is a scoring machine. The 5-9 sharpshooter scored 17, 18, 23, and 15 points respectively in the first four tournament wins.

Pearland also got strong offensive and defensive performances from Shohn Dixon, Hayden Dempsey, John Deterville, Mike Guillory, Ryan Richie, and Dovantae Carter.

The Oilers advanced to the tournament finals to face Waco Midway (16-6) for the M.T. Rice title.

The majority of the Pearland players are underclassmen who are gaining very valuable experience. The Oilers are 13-9 overall and 2-3 in District 22-6A competition, but they should make the playoffs this year once again.

Midway held a 26-20 lead at intermission after the Panthers took the first quarter 9-8.

Pearland made their offensive surge in the second half as they outscored Midway 20-8 while the notable Buckelew defense went into gear giving the Oilers a 40-34 advantage entering the final quarter.

However, Midway was able to find a hot-shooting hand down the stretch outscoring the Oilers 23-17 to to send the game into an extra period with score tied 57-57.

With 6.1 seconds left in the game and Pearland leading 57-55, Midway drove the length of the court to get a layup from guard Joe Ward at the buzzer sending the game past regulation.

Pearland took control of the next four minutes especially hitting clutch free throws by Sanni who was the tournament MVP. Sanni was 11-for-11 at the charity stripe, while hitting 4-of-8 from the field and 2-of-8 from the 3-point arc for a game-high 25 points.

Michael Guillory finished with 18 points for the Oilers.

"They're a solid, solid group," Midway head coach Mark Patton said. "Especially when you have a lead, and you can make free throws."

Pearland outscored Midway 13-8 in the extra frame to pick up the 70-65 tournament championship trophy.