Warren ready for another strong finish with De La Cruz, Mellican
Reece Lawler, a University of Iowa-bound baseball pitcher, lobbed a strike.
His perfectly placed bounce pass off the backboard found a trailing Seamus Mellican, who threw the basketball down for a two-handed dunk.
"He can really get up," Warren coach Jon Jasnoch said of the 6-foot-4 Mellican. "He's really explosive."
Mellican soaring and Juan De La Cruz showing explosion of his own in the pant is exactly for Warren needs as it tries to recapture a spark that's been missing the last couple of weeks.
Maybe Saturday night was a start for the Blue Devils, who snapped a season-worst five-game losing streak with a 58-49 win over visiting Waukegan in North Suburban Conference action.
De La Cruz scored a game- and season-high 19 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 3 steals, as Warren improved to 8-14 and 3-6 in the NSC.
"Juan's got a little bounce back in his step, and it showed tonight," Jasnoch said. "[Waukegan] had a hard time boxing him out. But when he plays like that, a lot of people would have a hard time boxing him out."
The 6-3, 210-pound De La Cruz and Mellican joined the basketball team late after starring for the football team, which put together the best season in its history in advancing to the Class 8A state championship game. Both players started receiving regular playing-time for the basketball team almost immediately, and the lack of a break between sports seasons eventually caught up to them.
"My body was feeling it," Mellican said. "It's a different type of workout shape for basketball and football. I just had to get some practices in and get back into it."
Likewise for De La Cruz, whose play against Waukegan suggested he's rejuvenated.
"I'm ready for the final month," said De La Cruz, a linebacker who's signed with Western Illinois. "It took me a while to get my touch back, but I think I'm back."
The Blue Devils might have known it was their night against Waukegan when they got a break in the closing seconds of first quarter. Adnan Sarancic (12 points, 7 rebounds) drove baseline and missed a contested layup, only to see it inadvertently tapped into the net by Waukegan to beat the buzzer.
"We were all on the bench saying, 'Who got that one?' " Jasnoch said. "Obviously it can happen, but I haven't seen that in a while. It's just dumb luck."
Luck wasn't required when Lawler and Mellican hooked up on their highlight-reel play late in the opening half. The duo improvised on a fastbreak, as the two players had never practiced the play.
"He was just wide open running down [the court]," Mellican, who finished with 7 points, said of Lawler. "Nobody was there so I just told him to throw it up."
Warren went into halftime up 34-18, and while Waukegan outscored the Blue Devils 31-24 in the second half, the Bulldogs trailed by double digits until the final minute.
Freshman Davyon Powell came off the bench in the fourth quarter to score a team-high 9 points on three 3-pointers for Waukegan (1-24, 0-9). Junior Mason Cervantes had 8 points and 7 rebounds, and junior Marvin Coleman also scored 8 points for the Bulldogs.
"They do some good things. They've been playing better," Jasnoch said. "They had Mundelein really close until the end. You talk to anybody. Everybody says they're playing better. We played better tonight than we have too."