Bellaire’s in control now.

Tyrell Palmer led three players in double digits with 14 points, and the Cardinals held off the Lamar Texans for a 59-45 victory and sole possession of first in District 18-6A on Friday at Butler Fieldhouse.

The Cardinals improved to 20-4, 7-0, and the Texans, previously undefeated in district, dropped to 14-12, 6-1.

Afterward, Bellaire coach Bruce Glover credited a methodical new approach he learned in the suburbs.

“We’ve been charting their progress, and one thing we banked on doing, that we learned from (a loss to) Summer Creek, and a good friend of mine from St. John – the suburban schools play basketball,” Glover said. “They slow you down, they make you think, and our district is an athletic type of district, so when we can slow teams down and make them think, we have a chance.

“That’s when we’re at our best.”

They were great when they were beating Lamar to the glass in the first half, helping them build a 21-10 lead on Elijah Lawrence’s layup with 4:46 left in the second quarter. Then Lamar coach Jerry Van Dusen called a timeout, Aaron Garcia hit a clutch 3-pointer for the Texans when play resumed, and they went on to close the half on an 11-2 run, pulling them within 23-21 at halftime.

“We got away from tempo,” Glover said.

“We had a nice, slow tempo, so we could come on a little down the stretch, (but) they out-tempo-ed us. They got down, they got the shots they wanted, and their guys got to the spots they wanted to.”

Lamar rode that momentum to its first advantage, 27-26, on consecutive 3s by Garcia and Kaleb Collins to start the third quarter, leading to a 3½-minute, back-and-forth stretch with eight lead changes.

Bellaire finally regained the lead for good on a free throw by Palmer, followed by a Jaylon Calvin layup, and alley-oop dunk from Palmer to Willie McCoy in a furious finish to the third quarter. The Cardinals took a 40-35 lead into the fourth, then slowly pulled away at the free-throw line.

“We calmed it down,” Glover said. “We settled down.”

The Cardinals went 2-of-10 at the line in the first half but converted their final eight free throws in the fourth to finish 11-of-21. They shot 53.7% (22-of-41) from the field and out-rebounded Lamar 27-20. Calvin finished with 13 points, McCoy with 10, and Jacob Cole added nine points, six rebounds.

Lamar went 7-of-12 from the free-throw line in the first half but did not attempt a free throw in the second. The Texans also committed 19 turnovers in the second half after only having one in the first half. They shot 17-of-37 (45.9%) led by Garcia and Collins, who finished with 12 points apiece.

“We’re just trying to out-fundamental teams like the suburbs try to out-fundamental us,” Glover said.

Jason McDaniel is a freelance writer.