Mired at 3-10 in mid-January, Delco Christian boys basketball coach Don Davis knew something had to change.
He had a young squad, but that wasn’t an excuse he wanted to fall back on. He had a couple of injuries, a few pieces that he hadn’t yet figured how to jury-rig together and the nagging feeling that his squad was drastically underperforming.
All he needed was for his team to realize it.
“We just said, ‘˜this isn’t working,” Davis said Wednesday, hours after his Knights secured a berth in the District One Class A title game and a spot in the PIAA Tournament. “We want to be successful more than we want to do our own thing. And everyone bought into playing as a team and being a team. We learned enough of a lesson.’
Those lessons have landed the Knights on the brink of a title, with the No. 3 seed tangling with No. 5 Jenkintown Saturday at noon at Plymouth-Whitemarsh.
The District One tournament had broken just right for the Knights, fitting for a team that didn’t get any breaks early in the season.
The Knights (13-13) earned their place in the final, escaping No. 6 seed Faith Christian, 50-46, in the quarterfinals before outlasting Christopher Dock in the semis, 52-50, in double-overtime. Delco Christian has the chance to win a title without having to contend with either the No. 1 seed (Phil-Mont Christian, upset by Jenkintown in the semis) and No. 2 (Plumstead Christian, downed in OT by Dock in the quarters).
That seems like a karmic reward for a team that weathered so many obstacles to turn its season around, winning 10 of 13.
The secret, said Davis, was self-belief. Players have accepted their roles on a team without one senior among the top-eight rotation. Nazim Trammell-Wells has blossomed as a defensive stopper. Devin Hill, the supplier of the game-winning bucket against Dock and 30 points against Faith Christian, and Wyatt Harkins have emerged as the primary scoring threats, with Danny Browne able to light it up when his 3-point shots are falling.
Grant Fischer has asserted himself in the paint, while Tracy Tann went from the bench to running the point, providing the stability and selflessness to free up the scorers to score.
“I would say at the beginning of year, I really thought we had at least the pieces of the puzzle that if it came together, we could do it,’ he said. “But when we’re sitting at 3-10, the only people that believed were us. I said to them, ‘˜Hey guys, even at this point, all our goals are ahead of us.”
Some of those goals — like winning the Bicentennial Liberty Division or claiming the Bicentennial tournament title — proved to be out of reach.
But Saturday, they get the chance to win a district title against a team they’ve already beaten, a 63-57 victim in DC’s hot streak. The main catalyst for the Drakes (12-13) is 6-0 guard Colin Mulvaney, who is averaging 19.4 points per game, though Jenkintown had four double-figures scorers in the win over Phil-Mont.