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Denair starts strong in own tournament
Coyotes fall to Hughson in second round
Denair boys pic1
Juan De La Cruz soars over Hughson defenders in Thursdays win over the Huskies. - photo by FRANKIE TOVAR / The Journal

It wasn’t looking good for Denair’s boys basketball team (2-6) Thursday night when they faced Cristo Rey High (1-7) in the first round of their own tournament. The Trojans looked to be on their way to the second round after a dominate first half, but a Coyote comeback dashed their plans. Denair snatched the win from Cristo Rey by a score of 76-68 and advanced to the second round where they played Hughson High.

Denair’s comeback against the Trojans was led by Juan De La Cruz who finished the game with 38 points.  De La Cruz’ offensive prowess was complemented by a defensive effort that helped Denair slow Cristo Rey’s most productive player, Kahlil Williams, in the second half.

“Once he started scoring he opened up everyone else,” Denair head coach Daniel Romero said of De La Cruz.  “And when we switched to man-to-man on defense that helped us a lot.”

With a strong defensive foundation Denair took the lead from Cristo Rey with a couple minutes left in the third quarter.  The Trojans remained competitive in the fourth but weren’t able to stop Denair when it counted.

“It was a good win for us,” Romero said. “We came back and played fundamental basketball.”

Denair’s second game didn’t follow the same script as the first. The Coyotes faced a hungry Hughson team that dominated the court with tough defense, consistent rebounding and accurate shooting. The Huskies defeated Denair 64-57 and advanced to the championship game.

“They beat us in every aspect of the game,” Romero said. “I give their team all the credit.”

Despite Hughson’s ability to execute its game plan, Denair still had opportunities throughout the game to take the lead and regain momentum. After trailing by as much as 18 points in the third quarter the Coyotes were able to make a decent run, but fatigue set in before a second comeback could happen.

“Our legs just gave out,” Romero said.

Denair faces Pacheco High today for third place in the tournament.

To contact Frankie Tovar, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.