VYPE U: Strake Jesuit Narrowly Defeats Clear Springs in First Round
After postponements, as a result of the winter storm crisis, the UIL 6A Boys Basketball Playoffs were finally able to tip-off, and the Strake Jesuit Fighting Crusaders were looking to keep their momentum going from the end of the regular season.
The Crusaders finished their season with four wins, all coming within the district after a tough 53-52 loss to Pearland Dawson which began their February schedule. This stretch of wins was able to propel SJ to third place in District 23, a major improvement to last year when they did not make the playoffs at all.
On Tuesday night, fans from both Strake Jesuit, and Clear Springs, the runner-up in District 24, filled up the neutral site arena at Pearland High School. A limited amount of tickets were sold for this game as we have seen all season as a result of COVID-19, but the fans that did attend were very vocal throughout the game.
From the jump, Clear Springs took the lead and was in control for all of the first quarter. Although several blocks from SJ players such as Aaron Rucker, Drayton Jones, and Jace Posey were able to contain the inside game of the Chargers, their deep game was lethal, as Luke Sampson hit a deep three in the first which caused Strake Jesuit to call their first timeout of the game. After that timeout, which was just a little bit over halfway through the quarter, both teams stalled almost completely on offense, and there were several physical plays to end the quarter. Through eight minutes of the game, only 17 points were scored, with Clear Springs leading 10-7 over Jesuit.
The second quarter, while not extraordinary for the Crusaders, was a huge improvement from the first, especially in the first few minutes. Sophomore Trevor Lombard was able to score a three-pointer to start off the period, and that led to a run where SJ would score seven points, just as many as they had in the first quarter, in the first two minutes and change of the second quarter. Following that run and some substitutions for Clear Springs, they took charge once again with a pair of threes near the end of the half, which extended their lead to five at halftime with a score of 25-20.
When I caught up with the Crusaders' head coach, Dominic Amorosa after the game, he reflected on the first half as he said "We thought we were just a step slow…it just seemed like we were super hesitant on offense and slow on some loose balls". Coach said that going into the second half, he said that he knew that defense and rebounding would be key, as they had struggled at that in the first two quarters.
Strake Jesuit started off another quarter with a run, 7-2 to be exact, in which Senior Edgar Romero hit an impressive floater to get on the board, and Jace Posey was able to take advantage of Clear Springs getting into foul trouble early in the quarter. While many SJ fans were critical of the officiating throughout the game, the Crusaders kept ramping up their energy despite questionable calls. After the game was tied at 27, the Chargers were able to pull out once again, drawing several shooting fouls and hitting a number of free throws to extend their lead. After a small stretch in which the Crusaders were having a hard time hitting anything, Trevor Lombard and Edgar Romero were both able to hit three-pointers to end the quarter with the Chargers still ahead 41-39.
This game had a major theme throughout the first three quarters, the Chargers would start off with a lead, quickly let their guard down, but then never actually lose the lead. However, that changed in the fourth, as another Crusader run led to their first lead of the entire game with seven minutes left in the contest. Edgar Romero, who scored his 200th three-pointer in January, and is already a career 1000 point scorer, took over in the final quarter, hitting several tough shots and doing a great job getting to the line. When asked about Edgar's leadership on the floor, Coach Amorosa said that "he has just kind of learned to want the ball late, it's been really fun to watch". Late game heroics by both of the seniors on the team, including a number of free throws late in the game by Oliver King, sealed the victory for Strake Jesuit, as they secured a rebound with 14 seconds left to go. The final score in this game was 53-47, but it was a nailbiter up until the last few possessions.
Strake Jesuit will take on the winner of District 21, and the 9th ranked team in the state of Texas in Atascocita, who defeated their first-round opponent, Deer Park, by a whopping 57 points on Tuesday night. The game between the Crusaders and the Eagles will take place at HISD's Delmar Fieldhouse, tickets are being sold in advance online. The game will also be broadcasted live on KUBETV Houston, which is available for many cable providers.