DePaul Cristo Rey’s boys basketball team needed a few months to work out some kinks, but now that Mike Vaughn’s Bruins all have reached the same gear, they’ve become tough to stop.
DPCR takes a program-record six-game winning streak into the Ohio Christian School Athletic Association state semifinals Friday, Feb. 27, at Ohio Christian University in Circleville. The 11-12 Bruins, who won the Southwest Region championship with a 41-38 upset of top-seeded East Dayton Christian last Friday, are scheduled to meet the Northeast Region-champion New Day Academy Eagles at 7:30 p.m.
“I don’t know anything about them, but I’m going to leave no stone unturned,” Vaught, DPCR’s first-year coach, said Tuesday about the team from Euclid, adding with a laugh. “Do you know anything?”
The winner is scheduled to face either Mansfield-based Temple Christian or Ohio Valley Christian of Gallipolis in the championship game Saturday at 5 p.m. The losers will meet in a 1 p.m. consolation game.
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The Bruins are having a hard time keeping the lid on their emotions, senior Tareek Foster said on Wednesday.
“We’re trying to remain calm, but we’re all happy and excited,” he said, adding that the students at the Clifton school also are getting on board. “They’re pretty excited. Most of them are trying to go to the game. They’re really getting into it.”
Vaughn credits the Bruins’ sudden reversal in direction primarily to his players finally getting comfortable in a new system.
“They’re buying in,” he said. “They’re in position where they can trust the system and trust each other. We know we can overcome adversity.”
He pointed out that DPCR had to come from behind after halftime to knock off EDC.
“Under previous circumstances, we would’ve reverted back to bad habits,” Vaughn said. “It’s changed now. We’ve instilled a much-better base of fundamentals.”
While Vaughn also credits having a healthy roster after struggling with some injuries during the regular season, Foster points to another level of trust as playing a key role.
“As seniors, we didn’t want it to end, and that just made us want to be leaders,” he said. “That leadership made others on the team want to come together. I see us more as a family now. It really helps with the trust that’s been built between the players. I’m not saying we were selfish earlier, but we’re making that extra pass now. It’s helpful to have trust in your teammates.”
The Bruins can go as many as nine deep without a dropoff, Vaughn said. Keion Humphrey scored 21 points and had 11 rebounds and Lavon Perry added 19 points in an overtime second-round upset of Dayton Temple Christian, but it was Perry’s 19 points and Demiko Nelson’s double-double that led the way in the first-round win over Bellefontaine Calvary Christian.
Nelson followed up with 17 points and Zach Jones just missed a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds while the Bruins were holding EDC to its lowest point total of the season in the regional final.
Foster is part of a senior class that won three games in three years. DPCR still is under .500 this season, and he’s hoping the Bruins can sneak up on New Day Academy.
“We weren’t expected to win a game in the tournament,” he pointed out. “We’re DPCR – the team that doesn’t win much.”