Hoops: Sophomore dunks asthma, leads CHS boys

Gilroy's Tommy Cox and Christopher Dillon Day battle for the ball at the tip off of their Monday night game.

Christopher High is located on Day Road in Gilroy, but the street sign that hangs outside the school might as well be a tribute.

A tribute to a rebound-gobbling power forward who calls basketball his love and finds himself too busy racking up double doubles to give in to his fight against asthma.

“If I’m going to go on the court, I’m going to give it all I’ve got,” Christopher sophomore Dillon Day said. “I’m not going to go half-hearted.”

That might explain how Day was able to deliver a memorable performance Monday, hours after it was unclear whether he would return to the starting lineup after recovering from a bout with pneumonia.

Day had 20 points and 24 rebounds to help rally the Cougars to a 59-49 home win over rival Gilroy. After the game, the soft-spoken 6-foot-2 post presence seemed more interested in praising teammates than himself.

“I couldn’t thank my teammates any more,” Day said.

One person thankful to have Day on his roster was Christopher coach Kaden Bahner, who called Day’s monster night a “double double-double.”

“I can’t say enough good things about Dillon,” Bahner said. “He’s a great kid, and he rose to the occasion. He hasn’t been able to play for the last three basketball games, (but) he came to me at school today, told me he was good to go.

“I said, ‘Let me know at 5:30 if you’re good to start,’ and he said he was good to start. I respect him and I’m proud of him. I’m sure at times, physically it wasn’t the easiest thing. He stepped up for us tonight.”

A battle with pneumonia forced Day to sit out the Bob Hagen Memorial Invitational at Gilroy High last weekend, but he returned to the court determined.

“I thought it would be three minutes in, three minutes out, but my asthma held up, I was able to breathe, and I didn’t want to be taken out,” Day said.

Gilroy (3-6) led 16-6 after the first quarter, but Christopher (6-3) used a 32-15 run to build a 38-31 lead midway through the third.

The Mustangs pulled within 43-39 after three quarters, but a Day put-back gave the Cougars a 49-44 lead midway through the fourth, and Christopher cruised to the win from there.

Day was serenaded with chants of “M-V-P” from Christopher’s student section when he went to the free-throw line with 3:22 remaining.

“It felt really good, (with) all the hype leading up to the game, all the adrenaline,” Day said. “It felt really good to come away with this one.”

Evan Shapiro had 16 points and six rebounds for Christopher, which got seven points from Andrew Foster and four points, five rebounds and four steals from Wyatt Rocheleau.

Christopher avenged a 62-47 loss at Gilroy last season.

“We’ve been preparing for this game for a year,” Bahner said. “Last year, we went into Gilroy feeling like we had prepared well for the game and they surprised us at their place. That was a tough one to swallow. You get over it, but you don’t forget, so it feels really nice to get this one in any way, shape or form.”

Less than halfway through his prep career, Day already could fill a scrap book with memories. The self-proclaimed “die-hard” Golden State Warriors fan played on his favorite team’s floor Dec. 1, helping the Cougars to a 62-43 win against Overfelt of San Jose in the Warriors’ “Play Where the Pros Play” event at Oracle Arena in Oakland.

“Oh, it was incredibly fun. My favorite team,” Day said with a smile.

Two of Day’s role models are NBA power forwards David Lee and Tim Duncan, and the high school big man brings an approach to rebounding that might make the NBA bigs proud.

“I think rebounds are just as important as points, especially offensive rebounds,” Day said. “It’s all about positioning.”

Bahner said Day brings uncommon energy in the paint.

“He’s a very active player inside the key, which is something you always have to coach kids on. He has a lot of natural ability doing that,” Bahner said. “He’s a great student of the game. I think his biggest asset is that he’s quick mentally and physically. He has an idea what he wants to do before he gets the ball.”

NOTES: The scoreboard indicated the final score was 59-50, but a Gilroy 3-pointer was put on the board when, in fact, the Mustangs’ final basket in the closing seconds – a baseline jumper by Brendan Holler – was signaled as a two-point field goal by a referee. … David Gonzalez led Gilroy with 12 points. Travis Moulden and Zach Loo scored seven points each for the Mustangs, who will visit Silver Creek of San Jose at 7 p.m. today. … Christopher’s first two Monterey Bay League home games will bring out the stars, as the Cougars host Hagen champion San Benito on Jan. 11, then welcome UCLA signee Noah Allen and Palma on Jan. 14.

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