A 2020 state finalist in TAPPS Class 3A, the Tomball Rosehill Christian Eagles had a reputation that preceded itself, and the O’Connell Buccaneers opened Saturday afternoon’s home game ready to prove themselves as a Class 2A state title contended this season.
The Bucs got off to a strong, focused start, and overcame a chippy fourth quarter to finish with a flurry in a 55-34 victory over the Eagles.
“It was a good win; I’ll take it,” O’Connell head boys basketball coach Derek Martin said. “We needed a good test.”
Playing with high energy on both sides of the ball, O’Connell raced out to a 16-1 lead to start the game.
Khristian Johnson started things off with a 3-pointer, and knocked down a second 3-pointer during the Buccaneers’ opening run.
Khristopher Johnson added four points in the paint during O’Connell’s scorching start, and then Raphfel Moss capped it in style with a fast-break slam dunk followed by a rebound and nice outlet pass to Chris Horton for a layup.
A 3-pointer from Ben Greengold cut O’Connell’s lead to 16-4 at the end of the first quarter, but did little to slow down the Bucs, as they opened the second quarter with a 15-2 run.
Khristian Johnson again got the Bucs rolling — this time with a steal and fast-break layup — and totaled nine points during the run.
Horton added four points on a lay-in and a mid-range jumper, and Khristopher Johnson had a pair of nice assists during the run, including a slick pass that found Cullen Doyle under the basket for a layup to cap it off and push O’Connell’s lead to a game-high margin at 31-6.
Rosehill Christian managed to get its deficit down to 31-12 at halftime, and in the third quarter, the pace slowed, as O’Connell took a 39-19 lead into the final frame.
The game got somewhat chippy in the fourth quarter, but a 50-34 deficit was as close as the Eagles would come to the Bucs, who ended on a strong note in the game’s final minute with a 5-0 burst that included a steal and assist by Khristopher Johnson to Horton for a layup and a driving lay-in from Moss off of another Rosehill Christian turnover.
“We came into this ready because we knew this was going to be a good team,” Martin said. “I told them it was going to be a tough game. … So, yes, we came in focused and ready, but in the second half we had one of those lulls. I’m thankful for the win. It was one that pushed us, but we still didn’t execute in the second half the way that got us the lead in the first half. We just have to find a way to be more consistent.”
Khristian Johnson led O’Connell with a game-best 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Horton chipped in 14 points, and Moss finished with nine points. Khristopher Johnson led the Buccaneers on the boards with nine rebounds to go along with seven points. Rounding out the scoring was Doyle’s layup for two points.
Rosehill Christian was led by Greengold with 21 points.
If the Buccaneers can’t find a replacement for Tuesday’s scheduled opponent, which had to go into a COVID-19 quarantine, their next game will be their district opener 7:30 p.m. Friday at home against Houston Grace Christian.
Of note, Grace Christian is O’Connell’s only district opponent, as the others opted out of the season because of the pandemic.