Valparaiso continued its run of success on the court in the third game of its preseason foreign tour in Cancun, Mexico Wednesday night, downing Rebotera de Cancun, 107-58. But that was far from the highlight of the Crusaders' day.
Earlier in the day Wednesday, the Crusader squad visited a local area rife with poverty. Walking through the streets, they came across a number of local children and literally gave the children the t-shirts off their backs. They then spent time with a local four-person family who gave the team a tour of their home, which consisted of only a couple small rooms.
“I was really proud of our basketball team today, not for the game but for the great moment during the day,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “I loved how our players reacted when they had the opportunity to help those less fortunate than them and joined in to help support them. We're here on an educational trip and it's going to be wonderful to help this young man get a college degree.”
On the court, the Crusaders got out of the gate slowly against Rebotera de Cancun, trailing 10-8 with 2:35 to play in the first quarter. But baskets by Ryan Broekhoff (Frankston, Victoria, Australia/Australian Institute of Sport), Matt Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville) and Brandon Wood (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo [Highland C.C./Southern Illinois]) helped spark a 14-5 spurt to put Valpo ahead 22-15 at the end of the first.
Erik Buggs (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell) got the Crusaders going in the second quarter with a 3-point play and combined with Howard Little (Chicago, Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.] School) to provide great defensive pressure as Valpo extended the lead out to 37-22. The Crusaders continued to push their advantage, and a 7-0 run by Jay Harris (Aurora, Ill./Oswego East) and Cory Johnson (Duluth, Minn./Duluth East [Iowa State]) gave Valpo a comfortable 63-36 lead at halftime, a lead that the Crusaders would increase throughout the second half en route to the easy win.
All 12 players who played Wednesday scored for Valpo, led by Broekhoff's 19 points and 17 points from Johnson. Harris chipped in 15 points, while Kenney and Michael Rogers (Kingston, Jamaica/Redemption [N.Y.] Christian) added 11 apiece. Kenney paced the Crusader effort on the boards with eight rebounds, while Cameron Witt (Launceston, Tasmania, Australia/Launceston) pulled down seven boards and blocked three shots. Only Kevin Van Wijk (Hoofddorp, Netherlands/Katholieke Scholengemeenschap Hoofddorp) did not play, resting his back.
“We came out to a slow start today, playing our third game in three days, but I was happy that we came together and played some good basketball the rest of the way,” said Drew. “Tomorrow is the really big game for us, playing one of Mexico's top pro teams, featuring a former NBA player (Horacio Llamas) and a number of former high Division I players.”
Valparaiso concludes its schedule of four games in four days against Pioneros de Quintana Roo Thursday evening at 7 p.m. Pioneros went 31-9 in the Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional last year, finishing in third place in the 20-team Mexican league.