In the first round of the CIF North Coast Section Division 5 playoffs Tuesday night, the No. 8 St. Vincent de Paul Mustangs defeated the No. 9 Technology Titans 49-42. It was the third straight win for the Mustangs following a five-game losing streak and was their first playoff win in 11 years and a milestone for a team in a rebuild.
In the spring-shortened season due to COVID-19, the Mustangs finished just 2-11, which included an upset win against Rancho Cotate to close the season. Their struggles primarily came offensively, averaging only 38.5 points per game and consistently struggling to shoot. However, the rough season did not deter the goal of a program that was hoping to build a championship culture.
The Mustangs only lost one senior after the spring season and following a successful summer playing some of the best teams in the North Bay, had high hopes entering the 2021-2022 season. Their main focus during the offseason was solely the basic improvement of the program.
Most of the players in the basketball program are stars on the gridiron, so the basketball season got off to a late start as the football team made a run to a NorCal bowl game. Despite the delayed start, the Mustangs quickly passed their win total from last season, starting 9-0.
However, a COVID outbreak caused 10 games to be postponed or canceled. Following a gauntlet schedule in NBL-Redwood play, they ended up finishing the regular season off strong with two consecutive victories over Elsie Allen and Sacramento Adventist.
Finishing the regular season with 14 wins, they smashed their win total from a year ago. In addition the team improved defensively, only giving up 40 points per game compared to giving up nearly 50 points per game the season before.
“Our understanding of playing the defensive side of the ball better has been huge for us to learn how to win games, which comes with a new culture,” St. Vincent de Paul head coach Tom Bonfigli said.
The turnaround can mainly be credited to the coaching of Bonfigli, who moved to 7th place on the all-time win list in California according to Cal-Hi Sports after the playoff win, and has kept his team at a high standard all year.
“The major thing that led to our improvement has been our coaching staff,” Bonfigli said. “[JV coaches] Coach [Nick] Iacopi and Coach [John] Molinari have done a great job teaching our younger players to play the game right, and our returning players have been key in our rebuild as well.”
The players getting on board with the goals of the rebuild, has also been a key point in what the team is trying to accomplish, and it all starts with the leaders of the team.
“Since Coach Bonfigli has come here it’s made a huge difference,” senior captain Jake DeCarli said . “He understands the game and knows what we need to do to win. He sets up the game plan and we execute it.”
Jake DeCarli had a team-high 19 points, 14 rebounds, and seven steals to help lead this team to their profound first round victory.
Since the Mustangs' disappointing spring season, they have come a long way to have won 15 games, including a NCS playoff game, a feat very few expected of them. Their second-round playoff game will be on Friday at top-ranked Cloverdale at 7:00 pm. They will look for another playoff victory, and Coach Bonfigli will look to keep moving up the all-time list.