Strake Jesuit survives against Pearland 72-57

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Pearland head basketball coach Steve Buckelew.

[Photo by Lloyd Hendricks.]

The game between Pearland and Strake Jesuit was a bitter-sweet contest as this would be the final home game for the Oilers this season and also it would be the last game that Pearland head coach Steve Buckelew would be coaching in the "Pressure Pit" as he has made the decision to retire after 28 years at Pearland.

Buckelew took an anemic Pearland basketball program in 1995 and turned it into a recognized Houston area power that was known for a pressing, suffocating defense with a deliberate offense.

With one game remaining when Pearland travels to face the Alief Hastings Bears (late Tuesday), Buckelew should finish with 830 wins and 322 losses over a 38-year span.

The veteran coach is the winningest coach in Pearland HS basketball history with 598 wins and 235 losses.

Over the 28 years Buckelew has been at the helm, the Oilers have made 22 UIL playoff appearances, 24 seasons of 20-plus wins, 4 seasons of 30 wins or more and one trip to the Texas Final Four state basketball tournament (1997-1998).

This year's team has been one of the youngest that Buckelew has ever coached and while the Oilers won't be advancing to the post-season, the team still showed a lot of hustle and effort in every game.

Such was the case against the playoff-bound Strake Jesuit Crusaders who entered the game tied for the No. 2 seed in District 23-6A.

Despite the scoring effort of Pearland junior Julian Valentine who fired in 24 points including four treys, Strake countered with Jace Posey who scored 27 points with a pair of 3-pointers while tossing in 12 points in the final quarter to give the Crusaders a 72-57 district win.

Strake opened the game with a 7-0 run, but the Pearland hardcourt warriors rallied with a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 7-6.

Both teams would end the first quarter tied 14-14.

The second quarter was more of the same as the lead changed several times before Strake edged Pearland 16-14 to take a 30-28 lead into the dressing room at intermission.

The game was tied 37-37 midway in the third period and then Strake went on a 10-0 run for a 47-37 advantage which was led by 3-pointers from Posey, sophomore Lucas Hobin and junior Andrew Love to immediately establish control of the game.

Strake Jesuit head coach Dominic Amorosa fully expected the tough fight he received from Pearland (12-20, 5-8).

"It was a big night for coach Buckelew and this program," Amorosa said. "He's been an ambassador for this sport in Houston, and we knew we were going to get their best shot.

"It got a little dicey with Pearland's ability to spread floor, and we knew it was going to be difficult if it remained close.

Strake led 51-39 heading into the final eight minutes of the game.

That's when Posey took over the game with 12 of his 27 points and the Crusaders sealed the game 21-18 in the fourth quarter and a 72-57 final score.

"We've gotten better each game," Buckelew said. "We played (Alief) Taylor to the wire on Tuesday, and we played good for about three quarters tonight.

"Once they locked down on my shooter (Julian Valentine), that made it tough. We play hard, but we're just young and inexperienced – and Strake is a very good team."

Pearland will try to give Buckelew his 598th career win as the Oilers head coach at Alief Hastings (late Tuesday).

"It's been a great run," Buckelew said, "and seeing all the people – fans, parents, former players, colleagues – here tonight was very special."