Vazquez sets table for trip to Palestra

Dom Vazquez has been the floor general this year for Ryan. PHOTO: MEMORIES IN STONE PHOTOGRAPHY

On some teams, Dom Vazquez could be a top scorer.

On his team, he’s a floor general.

That suits him just fine.

Vazquez is a junior guard on the Archbishop Ryan High School basketball team, and the Raiders have plenty of guys who can score when called upon.

It’s a unique squad that has found scoring in all different ways since star guard Aaron Lemon-Warren broke his foot late in the regular season.

Since then, Gediminas Mokseckas has taken over as the go-to guy, but guys like three-point sniper Luke Boyd, big man Christian Isopi and defensive stopper Jalen Snead have filled in when needed to score.

When needed, Vazquez does, too, but his job is to run the show. It’s a huge difference from where he was a year ago when he first started playing the point.

“I came in late last year when we had some injuries, and it was hard,” the Chalfont native said. “It’s hard playing in this league, especially when things get going in the playoffs and the end of a season. I never played varsity basketball before, so when I first got in, I was trying to learn everything and get some experience against great players. It was hard.”

Hard work pays off. And now, though he’s still just a junior, Vazquez is the floor general the Raiders need. And now he gets to take those talents to the Palestra, baby!

The seventh-seeded Raiders, who had to play a first-round game to make the quarterfinals, knocked off second-place Bishop McDevitt 58-56 in a classic game Friday night.

Heroes for Ryan, which will meet Neumann-Goretti on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Palestra in the second half of a doubleheader in the semifinals, were aplenty.

Mokseckas and Boyd each scored 18 points. Isopi and Snead played tough defense against a McDevitt team that went 12-2 in a very competitive and top-heavy Catholic League, and Ryan coach Joe Zeglinski had a solid game plan to knock off a team that had won 10 straight games heading into the playoffs, including wins over Neumann-Goretti, Bonner-Prendergast and Roman Catholic during the final week of the regular season.

And then there was Vazquez, who scored six points, but his best attributes were far away from the total points column. He was the quarterback and kept the team poised.

“That’s my job and I love doing that,” said Vazquez, who scored 14 points in the first-round victory over West Catholic. “It’s not my job to score. I usually try to get my teammates involved, let the guys who are out there to score do what they need to do, and then in the second half, I’ll score if it’s there.

“This is a very good team. When Aaron got hurt, we all were confident in each other. He’s a great player and we miss him so much, but we knew we had to do it for him now. We had to play differently, and we’re doing that.”

Few believed the Raiders would advance to the Palestra once Lemon-Warren went down, and with good reason. Even though the Raiders were 6-2 when he went down, Lemon-Warren was averaging a Catholic League-best 23.9 points per game.

That’s a lot of points to make up, but Vazquez was confident his team would do it. He was right.

“Luke Boyd has become our second scorer, and he’s doing great,” Vazquez said of his teammate who swooshed five treys against McDevitt. “But everyone has done better. We didn’t replace Aaron because nobody can, but we can all do a little more.”

Vazquez has become the leader on the floor, doing the little things that make the engine run.

“Dom ran the team and he is so good out there,” said Zeglinski, who has led the Raiders to the Palestra in three of his first five years as coach. “This was a great game, we played a great team. Dom was our floor general, Luke had a huge game. We needed a lot from everyone and we got it.”

Vazquez focuses most of his attention on basketball. While his teammates enjoy playing video games, that’s not his style. He eats, breathes and sleeps basketball.

But he does find ways to do good things through his passion.

Vazquez is a member of Athletes Helping Athletes, where athletes are partnered with individuals with special needs. Many Ryan athletes are involved in the program, and basketball is one of the participants’ favorite events to attend.

“They didn’t come tonight, we always announce them before the game,” Vazquez said. “I love being a part of it. They have fun with it, and so do we. I love sports and it means a lot to them, so it’s fun to share that with them.”

Now he’s ready to share the experience of going to the Palestra with his team.

Not many people anticipated the Raiders still playing. In fact, before the game, the McDevitt priest who said the prayer asked Jesus to help McDevitt to stay humble in the victory.

“I thought that was funny,” Vazquez said. “But I knew he was wrong. We all knew we were going to win. Nobody else did, but we knew.

“We were confident, but it’s great that we’re playing (at the Palestra). I’ve never played there. It’s what everyone wants to do. Now we get to do it. We’re all excited about it.”