CINCINNATI — Martin Igaba can't say enough about DePaul Cristo Rey High School and its basketball program.
"I think basketball really changed my whole life throughout high school," said Igaba, a senior center/forward.
"How I see high school, how see myself and others. And it just gave me the confidence that I can do anything if I'm just focused and just try it."
DePaul Cristo Rey, located a block from Cincinnati State University at Central Parkway and Clifton Hills Avenue, has continued its boys basketball tradition this winter.
The boys basketball team is a member of the Ohio Christian School Athletic Association. The basketball program began the first year the school opened in 2011-12.
"There has been a lot of things that they've done - all the championships - and I think they keep passing it down to other seniors which is important because they want us to get farther and farther," said senior point guard Happy Ciza.
The Bruins plays Calvary Christian in an Ohio Valley Christian Conference tournament semifinal Friday.
If the Bruins win, they will advance to the tournament final Saturday in Sidney, Ohio.
Igaba and Ciza - who joined the varsity at the end of their freshman seasons - are among six seniors who have won 81 games in their high school careers including nine championships overall.
DePaul Cristo Rey has won the Ohio Valley Christian Conference title the past four years and the conference tournament the past three years.
The Bruins have also captured regional titles and the Ohio Christian School Athletic Association state title in 2020.
"It's been a great honor to coach this team and these six seniors," said De Paul Cristo Rey coach Randy Cornelius, who earned his 100th win at the school this season.
Although the Bruins (11-2) didn't start this season until the second week in January, the team persevered through challenges related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cornelius said the significant effort in practice - especially on the defensive end - is paying dividends this postseason.
"They know it's we," Cornelius said. "We don't care who scores. Our team gets the points. They're unselfish."
Igaba, the first DePaul Cristo Rey player to be named all-OVCC three times, averages 15.2 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks.
This season, he tied the school record for most points (33) in a single game.
"He's been the heart and soul of our team for the last few years," Cornelius said.
Ciza, a first team all-conference player who is nominated for OVCC player of the year honors, averages 20.4 points, 3.3 assists and 4.3 steals.
Ciza has earned all-conference honors twice prior this season. He said he's made several friends through basketball and is thankful for the opportunities the past few years.
"It's been an honor to coach not only these two but the whole senior class and we're going to miss them," Cornelius said.
"Not just basketball, they're good students too. Of our six seniors most of them have been on the honor roll. That's the biggest thing. We preach that. Don't just be a good basketball player, be a good student. That's a student-athlete and they have. That's a big plus for our program."
DePaul Cristo Rey athletic director Lynne Morris said Igaba and Ciza have made an impact beyond basketball.
"Not only have they provided DPCR with the opportunity for them to play basketball and soccer and do a great job for us but they're just good kids," Morris said.
"They're kind, they're considerate, they're leaders, they're friendly - they have all these qualities above and beyond the court. They're just super, super good kids. Super good human beings. I'm so happy that I got to meet them, know them and they've taught me a lot. I am going to miss them horribly."