CHAMPAIGN — Michael Finke has scholarship offers. Luke Vaughn has already committed.
The two Centennial athletes will have a different future in athletics, but for the present they are focused on the same goal: to help the Chargers’ basketball team.
It was a successful venture in Monday’s season opener, a 78-54 win against visiting Danville in first-round action of Lincoln’s Eaton Tournament.
Finke, a major-college basketball prospect, hit a game-high 31 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Vaughn, an Ole Miss full scholarship track and field recruit, came off the bench to score 12 points and grab nine rebounds.
“I didn’t do football, so I got to all the open gyms,” Vaughn said. “Last year, I came in (to basketball) pretty rusty.”
Beyond showing up to offseason workouts, he said his effort improved.
“I stopped being lazy and started putting the work in,” said Vaughn, who has added 30 pounds to his 6-foot-8 frame since his junior season.
Vaughn scored six of his points in the third quarter, which started with a 20-2 Centennial run that turned a 32-31 halftime lead into a margin that never again dipped below double digits.
“Luke stepped up and gave us a great presence down low,” Charger coach Tim Lavin said. “I was really happy with his performance.”
Vaughn made 6 of 7 shots. Finke was 12 for 18.
A third Charger reached double figures. Transfer Dedric Byrd, in his Centennial debut, scored all 10 of his points in the second half. The 5-foot-9 junior point guard has made a favorable impression with his teammates.
“He’s not a ball hog,” Vaughn said. “He’s always looking to dump it off. He’s a good fit.”
Senior Jeffrey Lavin displayed his perimeter touch, nailing 3 of 7 three-point shots. He totaled nine points.
Danville came out firing, launching 25 first-quarter shots, a total that was possible thanks to 11 offensive rebounds in the opening 8 minutes.
“We had great energy, hustle and played hard,” Danville coach Ted Houpt said in his first game as the Vikings’ boys’ basketball head coach, “but even in the first half we didn’t execute very well.”
Danville had plenty of highlights. Junior Denzel Smith scored 28 points, including all 14 of his team’s fourth-period points. Senior Daniel Carter grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds, 11 on the offensive end, and scored 11 points.
“We can count on that the rest of the year,” Houpt said. “He’s a warrior. When you get that every game, it gives you a chance.”
Houpt was most pleased that Smith’s performance wasn’t one-dimensional.
Offensively, the coach said Smith was “fantastic,” and added, “I was happy with the defense he played. He was very focused.”
In his grade book, Tim Lavin said he would mark the first half down as a “D,” for his squad, but the last 16 minutes were vastly superior.
“A ‘B-plus’ or an ‘A-minus’,” he said. “In the second half, we did a much better job of establishing it down low, and we did better on the defensive boards.”
Both teams return to action Wednesday night at Lincoln, Centennial in the 5 p.m. game against Cahokia and Danville in the 6:30 game against Seton Academy.