St. Vincent girls join short list of -#8216;great-#8217; teams

The St. Vincent High School girls basketball team is getting praise from some high places.

Catholic Bishop Robert F. Vasa of the Santa Rosa Diocese sent out a release this week commending the St. Vincent team (along with the Cardinal Newman team) for their achievements. "I'm tremendously proud of these ladies," Bishop Vasa wrote. "It takes a lot of hours, a lot of effort to make it this far, a lot of teamwork. And yet against much great talent and some very strong competition, both teams accomplished something great this season."

"Great" is the key word in Bishop Vasa's commendation. The 2013-2014 St. Vincent girls basketball team was a "great" team. "Great" is not a term I toss around lightly like I do "extraordinary," "exceptional" or everybody's favorite "awesome."

It is hard to define greatness. It is more than winning. After all, the St. Vincent girls, while they were North Central League II champions, did not win the North Coast Section title. I would offer that this fall's Casa Grande High School football team that won more games than any other football team in the school's history (13) was a great team, but it did not win the NCS championship, nor did the 2009 Petaluma High football team that won 12 straight games only to lose to Eureka in the NCS finals. Even last spring's Casa Grande baseball team with its 21-game winning streak and NBL title failed to win the NCS pennant. And yet, these were all what I would consider great teams. Of course, there are several other teams I've seen during my two stints in Petaluma and several others I was not privileged to observe that do fall into the "great" category, but space and a foggy memory prevent me from mentioning them.

Certainly success is a huge part of what makes greatness. The teams just mentioned, like this year's St. Vincent girls team, were all tremendously successful even without winning a NCS plaque. It is just that it is awfully difficult to run the table all the way to a NCS title, which makes the back-to-back championships of St. Vincent's softball team so remarkable. Not so incidentally, several of the players on this year's basketball team are also members of those softball powers.

What made this year's St. Vincent basketball team so special -#8212; great -#8212; was not only the league championship, not only reaching the NCS finals for the first time in school history, not only going to the state playoffs for the first time in school history. What made them great was that rare combination of talent, discipline, hard work, love for the game and love for one another.

Those who were paying attention could see this season coming. Although there were several talented underclassmen, the core of this year's team was a senior group that had played together for three, and for several, four years. They were talented, but a lot of teams are talented. They worked hard, but a lot of teams work hard. They were enthusiastic, but a lot of teams are enthusiastic.

What really set them apart was the way they worked together and played together.

It was never any one player, but always two or three players, who stepped up for the Lady Mustangs. They made up for lack of size with extra poritions of hustle.

Tie it all together with a quiet, but very knowledgeable and inspirational coach like Jim Fagundes, and the result is greatness. It doesn't happen often, but it is something to see when it does happen.

(Contact John Jackson at johnie.jackson@arguscourier.com)