by Maurice Bobb / @reesereport
Yates vs. Bellaire. The matchup the whole city wanted to see came at a price no one wanted to pay.
In an effort to raise money for the family of Tobi Oyedeji, the Texas A&M bound basketball star who died in a car crash early this past Sunday morning and 51-year-old Gertha Augustin, the other victim in the deadly collision, the Class 4A state champion Lions took the court against the nationally ranked Cardinals Wednesday night at Delmar Fieldhouse.
The game started out tentatively, with players from each team seemingly not knowing how to tackle the weight of the circumstances. But by the end of the contest, the capacity crowd was treated to highlight-reel basketball action from each team before Yates closed things out with a 100-93 win.
Before the action started, Jonathan Evans, the point guard and teammate of Oyedeji, gave a speech about his fallen friend and got choked up when he said, “Today, instead of mourning Tobi’s death, we’re coming to celebrate. We’re coming to celebrate the life of a remarkable human being. Today, we celebrate Tobi.”
Because of UIL rules, only seniors could suit up for the game. And to make sure the focus stayed on the matter at hand, all the players (from both teams) wore jerseys with Oyedeji’s No. 35. Additionally, because of league rules, the head coaches could not direct their troops. To compensate, the Cardinals were coached by L.A. Clippers center and former Houston standout, DeAndre Jordan, and the Lions were coached by Arizona guard and son of the head coach, Nic Wise.
At tip-off, Bellaire elected to put four players on the floor. Their “fifth man” was the memory of Oyedeji.
Sheldon McClellan started things off for the Cardinals with a nice drive to the cup for the deuce. The crowd really got in to in, though, when Brandon Peters caught an alley-oop for a ri-donk-ulous slam to go up 11-7 with 4:50 remaining. Jamel Outler then connected on two freebies from the charity stripe and finished a sweet and-one to put the home team back on top of the scoreboard. Elton Roy knocked down back-to-back Js from deep, but Joe Okafor went to work down low to help Bellaire end the quarter up 31-23.
The second period was all Yates as Peters capped an 18-9 run with a reverse slam to go up 41-40 with three minutes remaining. Jeremy Hines kept it interesting for Bellaire with a corner jumper and wing trey, but the Lions ran off to close out the period up 57-46.
Sharpshooters Joe Young and Evans participated in a three-point contest at halftime. Young, a Providence commit, tallied 16 points for the W. Evans finished with 12 points.
Peters and Outler went head-to-head in the dunk contest. Peters started with a handoff windmill jam. Outler went next and threw down a reverse from the right baseline. Peters then tattooed the rim with a double-pump reverse dunk. Outler followed with a cradle-rock slam. Peters missed both attempts on a spectacular between-the-legs dunk before Outler took the victory with a reverse.
Peters didn’t win the dunk contest, but he caught a mean alley in the third to make amends. Evans also made amends for his L in the three-point contest, connecting on two from deep and finishing the quarter with 11 points.
For the final eight minutes, both teams really went hard for the win. With the crowd cheering on their respective teams, both squads dug down deep. Darius Gardner led the charge for Yates, needling his way through traffic for eight points and three beautiful set-ups for Peters’ dunks, including a bounce pass that resulted in a “jump-out-your-seats” reverse dunk. Hines took over for Bellaire, running off nine straight points to close the deficit to eight. But Gardner would not let his team lose, continuing the pressure on the home team with brilliant dribble penetration in to the lane. And even though the game was already decided, Outler electrified the crowd with a beautiful alley at the buzzer for the Cardinals.
Peters led all scorers with 29 points and Roy finished with 19. Outler paced Bellaire with 21 points and Evans added 20.
Both teams met at center court and joined hands in prayer to say one final goodbye to Oyedeji, a great player and an even greater friend, teammate, student, son and human being. From all of us here at SLAMonline, may he rest in peace.
Please take a moment to view the following tribute video taken at last night’s game by Maurice Elrod of High School Hopefuls.