Richard Dorhauer never knew how much pain he could take. He knows now. The senior point guard for the Vianney boys’ basketball team, Dorhauer, 18, was a day removed from having his right anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgically repaired when he began his rehabilitation. In those first few moments, what was going to make him stronger actually felt like it was going to kill him. “It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt,” the 5-foot-11, 172-pound Dorhauer says. “Nothing I’ve ever done in my life was harder than rehab.”

But Dorhauer survived that first day and went back. He survived his second day and went back. Eventually the pain began to fade, and he welcomed the hard work of rehabilitating his joint. “Rehab was a blast for me,” he says. “I had a great time.”

He’s reaping the rewards of all his hard work: Dorhauer led Vianney to the Jerry Boeckman Memorial Invitational Tournament championship last week at Vianney. The Golden Griffins rallied past a rough-and-tumble Belleville West team to win the tournament for only the third time in their 45-year history and first time since 2003. “It’s a huge accomplishment,” Dorhauer says. “It was a really good experience.”

Vianney has all the makings of a team to watch this winter. The Golden Griffins return all five starters from last year’s sectional qualifier and boast plenty of experienced depth. The roster is loaded with seniors who have been through the rigors of the varsity more than once. Dorhauer and classmate Tony Cochran, a shooting guard, have been four-year varsity staples. Last year, that duo was handed the keys to the team and let loose. “Coach (Kevin Walsh) told us we get two senior years,” Dorhauer says. “We’re building off last year.”

The last couple of years, the rough and rugged Metro Catholic Conference featured Chaminade and CBC at the top. Those two programs have had their way in conference but were ransacked by graduation and appear to be in a rebuilding phase. Vianney and De Smet are poised to ascend to the top of the league. De Smet features a handful of talented returners from a quarterfinal team last winter. Among them is Butler recruit Nolan Berry, ‘Easy’ Ed Macauley’s grandson, and point guard Jimmy Barton. Both players are juniors but are among the best at their positions.

Vianney, though, is senior-heavy and has all the pieces you could ask for. The Golden Griffins have experienced poised guards in Dorhauer and Cochran. They have a standout forward on the wing in junior Brad Woodson. They even have some serious size in senior center George Suggs (6-10) and junior forward Sean O’Brien (6-9). They are athletic and have no conscience. They’ll shoot the ball at any given moment and if they’re hitting, any defense is in for a long night. “We have a lot of guys with a good shooter’s mentality,” Walsh says. Which is to say, Walsh’s shooters don’t remember whether they made or missed their last shot. They’re only worried about getting the next one down.

With so much talent and the weight of expectations (something Vianney hasn’t had outside of its own gym in some time), how are the Golden Griffins handling their newfound role? The same way they always handle their business: They put their heads down and go to work. “We’re trying not to get outside ourselves,” Dorhauer says. “With Walsh on our backs, in a good way, we stay focused.”

Vianney hosts CBC on Friday at 7 p.m.