BETHEL — One or two Mountain Valley Conference boys’ basketball players might have a more feathery shooting touch, be a half-step quicker and score more points than Daniel Vaughn.

Another might use his extra two inches of height to get his fingertips on more rebounds or opponents’ shots.

The occasional point guard whose job description is to find the open man and shoot only in an emergency could end up with a higher tally of assists.

Search for a more complete player than the 6-foot-1 senior from Telstar Regional High School, however, and you’ll come up empty.

Telstar’s curious mascot is Yosemite Sam. Coach Mark Thurlow chooses another cartoon character as his co-captain’s alter ego.

“He’s the Tasmanian Devil, right?” Thurlow said.

Watch Vaughn’s style of play and it’s easy to see the parallels. Somehow, he strikes the perfect balance between all-out, all-the-time energy and heady, measured senior leadership.

And the Rebels have responded. Mired in the middle to bottom of the MVC pack for most of its history, Telstar is off to a start that has coaches, players and fans expecting an elusive tournament appearance.

Telstar opened the season with five straight wins, punctuated by an unheard-of sweep of Livermore Falls and Jay in a 48-hour span prior to Christmas.

“It’s a little bit of a different feeling,” Vaughn said. “I’m playing with the same guys I’ve been with since sixth and seventh grade. It feels like this should be our year.”

Boothbay and Dirigo administered small doses of reality in Telstar’s last two games. The Rebels led the two-time defending Western Class C champion Cougars early in the fourth quarter Monday before stumbling to a 45-39 loss.

Vaughn, a four-year starter, paced a parade of players out of the Telstar locker room. Cold, even tear-stained stares outnumbered smiles a dozen to zero.

It’s a response that speaks volumes to Thurlow.

“They were shaken. They really thought they were going to win that game,” said the coach. “They won’t accept being close anymore.”

Thanks in part to Vaughn’s quantum leap as a junior, Telstar had its chance to celebrate being close last winter.

Five wins weren’t enough to make the tournament. A promising season was undone by a 1-8 record on the road.

Still, the Rebels looked ahead with enthusiasm at the rarest of consolation prizes: An entire team returning intact, untouched by graduation, in 2010-11.

“It really hit us at the beginning of last year knowing that we’d come into this year with everybody back,” Vaughn said. “We thought we could do this last year and it just didn’t happen.”

One notable difference in his senior campaign is that Vaughn doesn’t have to carry the Rebels. Fellow starters Corey Howard, Danny Whitney, Elek Pew and Ben Field all have taken a turn as Telstar’s high scorer.

When Telstar is on top of its game, however, Vaughn is actively involved in almost every play at both ends of the floor.

In a 50-35 win over Lisbon, Vaughn racked up 17 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and seven steals. He scored 18 in a surprisingly one-sided 53-36 triumph at Jay.

Even when life doesn’t go according to plan for the Rebels, Vaughn steadies the ship. He had 19 points at Boothbay in a 69-56 loss and fought foul trouble and a variety of defensive gimmicks to the tune of seven points, nine boards and five assists against Dirigo.

“He was mad when I took him out for a few seconds at the end of the third quarter,” Thurlow said of the Dirigo game. “I didn’t want him to get that fourth foul.”

Naturally, Vaughn played the entire fourth period without drawing another whistle. It’s the same court sense he’s shown since picking up the game in second grade and joining forces with most of his current teammates four years later.

The completeness of Vaughn’s game shouldn’t overshadow his exploits as a scorer. According to Thurlow, he is on target to become the fifth member of the boys’ 1,000-point club in school history, joining Mike Clark-Pelletier, Todd Wing, Kinsey Durgin and current assistant coach Sean Caddigan.

Vaughn hasn’t decided if he will try to play basketball in college. Vermont and Keene State are at the top of his list.

If next month does hasten his final scholastic game, Vaughn hopes it’s at Augusta Civic Center, site of the Western Maine tournament. Telstar hasn’t made that trip since the days of Durgin and Caddigan early in the double-zero decade.

“Now we’re playing some of the tougher teams,” Vaughn said. “We’re not really losing by too much. It’s enough to get under our skin a little bit. We’ve just got to keep our heads. We’ll come out strong.”

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.