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Mustangs have the pieces for successful season

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The St. Vincent High School basketball team has all the pieces for a successful season, but at the start of the season, a few of those pieces are missing.

Most obvious of the missing parts is senior guard Miguel Bunting, who is the team’s key ball handler, one of the top shooters and, most importantly, a team leader. He is out with an injury and isn’t expected to be back with the team for one-to-two more weeks.

St. Vincent is not exactly missing, but certainly waiting for, several important players to re-hone their basketball skills after a football season that extended into the North Coast Section playoffs.

Once Bunting returns and the football players become basketball players, Mustang coach Scott Himes is expecting good things to happen in DeCarli Gymnasium.

“I’m real excited,” he says. “I think we’re going to be good. We had a great spring and summer.”

Himes, starting his second year as Mustang coach, is looking forward to having Bunting and returning all-leaguer Tyler Pease on the same court. “He (Pease) has made a huge improvement, especially in his leadership,” the coach said.

One thing is certain. No one is going to push the Mustangs around, not with football players Gio Antonini (6-3, 250) and Rory Morgan (6-7, 210) clogging up the paint.

With Bunting out, Joe Sartori has stepped in to direct the offense in the backcourt. “He has done a good job taking over the point guard spot while Bunting is out,” notes Himes. “He is shooting the ball real well.”

Nate Berniklau also makes the transition from football to basketball and will help on the court.

Junior Ryan Nalducci has earned playing time, including starting spots in the first two Mustang games. “He has great speed and good basketball skills,” says Himes.

Senior John Romano is a returning varsity veteran who is expected to help. “He is a very scrappy defender,” the coach observes.

Three players coming up from the junior varsity team — George Bunting, Miguel’s brother; Vince Gawronski; and Devaneaux Sagaral — are all expected to play.

Another who is going to help is 6-6 Xavier Sullivan, who will provide toughness inside.

Marcus Stefani will be a contributor. St. Vincent was 11-14 last season, but was 6-2 to finish second to Sonoma Academy in the North Central League IV. This will be the Mustangs’ last year in that league as they move next season into the North Bay League Redwood Division.

Himes is confident St. Vincent can compete in the NBL.

“We’re excited about it,” he says. “It’s a chance to compete at a higher level.”

But, first things first, and the Mustangs have their eyes and hearts set on unseating Sonoma Academy at the top of their current league and moving on to the North Coast Section playoffs.

“I think we are definitely a playoff teams,” the coach says.

To prepare for league and what might be beyond, Himes as put together an ambitious schedule that includes three tournaments in as many weekends. The Mustangs will play in the Redwood Classic in Boonville this week, the McMillan Tournament in Cloverdale on Dec. 12-14 and Casa Grande’s Brett Callan Tournament on Dec. 19-21.

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