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Democracy Prep boys prepare for 3A title run: ‘Nothing breaks them’

Democracy Prep’s boys basketball team is a quiet group. That’s played to its benefit, coach Cory Duke said.

The Blue Knights won the Class 2A state title last season and moved up to 3A this year. But most of the adversity the group has faced has come off the court.

A loss within the program and the high school portion of the charter school almost closing hasn’t kept the team from pursuing another championship.

Democracy Prep (17-7), the No. 2 seed from the South, will face Northern champion Fernley (26-2) in a Class 3A state semifinal at 10:40 a.m. Wednesday at UNR’s Lawlor Events Center.

“Nothing breaks them. It’s unbelievable,” Duke said. “A lot of our guys have been through a lot already in their lives. They’ve persevered to get to this point. They keep pushing through.”

The Blue Knights’ run to the title last year was fueled by playing for assistant coach Mark Coleman, who passed away in February 2023 after a battle with Stage 4 prostate cancer.

This year, it looked like Democracy Prep would be taking its last dance. The school announced last month the high school portion of the charter school in the Historic Westside would close at the end of the year.

Duke said the decision was a “shock.” After a few days of coming to terms with the decision, he said the group “recommitted” to one another to try to achieve their goal of winning a state title.

“It was really more of a lock-in on finishing our season, not whether the school is closing or not,” sophomore guard Josiah Stroughter said. “That pushed us more to try and get a state championship. … It brought us together more. We can’t let our brothers down. We had to be there for one another.”

The high school, which has an enrollment of less than 400 students, was ultimately spared. Democracy Prep announced earlier this month more funding was acquired to keep the high school open “for the 24-25 school year and beyond,” a letter to parents said.

The team has embraced the “Westside toughness” culture of its surrounding community. It was a standard that was set by Coleman, whose son Tai is a sophomore guard at Democracy Prep.

“We have a purpose. Who we’re doing it for: My dad,” Tai Coleman said. “Last year, he brought the energy, he brought everything that helped us get to the state championship. Since he’s not here, we have to think about it and figure out where to lock in. … We really have to come together closer and stay more locked in with one another.”

Southern champion Mater East (15-6) will take on Elko (18-9), the North’s No. 2 seed, in the other state semifinal at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The state title game is at 5 p.m. Thursday at Lawlor Events Center.

Mater East defeated Democracy Prep 60-59 on Friday for the Southern Region title.

“It’s a very heated rivalry and there is respect there … There is no doubt that it’s a rivalry,” Duke said. “It’s a heated one. And I think you need that in high school basketball. I think that’s what makes it great.”

The 3A girls state tournament begins a day of eight basketball games at Lawlor Events Center on Wednesday.

Southern champion Moapa Valley (27-3) will face Fernley (28-2), the No. 2 seed from the North, in a state semifinal at 9 a.m. Northern champion Lowry (20-6) faces Pahrump Valley (27-3), the South’s No. 2 seed, in the other state semifinal at noon.

The girls state title game is 3:40 p.m. Thursday.

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on X.

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