Some might gauge a successful season on whether the team makes the playoffs or not.
Although the postseason eluded a very talented group of Vintage High School boys basketball players — for the second year in a row for seven of them — it wasn’t their only goal.
“Every year our basketball points of emphasis are team, family, basketball fundamentals, and doing the right things on and off the court to properly represent the program. I think these guys did a great job with those,” second-year Crushers head coach Brett Wedding said.
“I think a team that is able to embrace those ideas will be successful in many things other than sports in their lives.
“Not making the playoffs is unfortunate, but it does not entirely mean the season wasn’t successful. Making the playoffs in Division I is not an easy task.”
It takes luck, too.
Just look at the 2009-10 and 2010-11 Vintage boys teams.
Each finished 6-4 in Monticello Empire League play and 15-11 overall, but only the ’09-10 squad reached the playoffs, falling at Turlock in the first round.
The next year’s Crushers looked like a team that could win a playoff game.
But they never got the chance, despite beating every MEL opponent at least once — including perennial power Fairfield, ending the Falcons’ 17-game league win streak.
Even with 16 wins this season, the most by a Vintage boys team in 12 years, the Crushers didn’t get a second season. A 12-point win over an Armijo team that had beaten them by 14 points in January kept the Crushers’ hopes alive down the stretch.
But the four-point loss to Wood that followed probably dashed those hopes.
Vintage still came to play in its last game, routing cross-town rival Napa by at least 20 points for the second time in a row.
It was a special night for the team of 12 seniors and two juniors, which finished 16-11 overall and 5-5 in the MEL.
That season-ending 78-58 win at Napa High was the 46th varsity victory for third-year varsity players Jordan Martin, Gianni Nola and Josh Douglas.
Martin and Nola were asked what they learned from playing basketball that relates to the court and life in general.
“Playing basketball in this program from a basketball perspective, I’ve gotten better with a ton of things, including my dribbling and just understanding and having a feel for the game,” said Martin, probably the most aggressive defender on the team as well as a solid 3-point shooter. “It’s also taught me the life lessons of never giving up, giving my all in everything I do, and teamwork. It also gave me a sense of brotherhood that I never had before.”
Martin is currently recovering from the dislocated shoulder he sustained during the Big Game finale while diving for a loose ball and running into the bleachers.
He said he’ll probably try to play for Napa Valley College next season, and hopes to eventually move on to NCAA Division I basketball at Northern Arizona University or the University of the Pacific.
Playing for Vintage seems to have prepared him well for the higher stakes at the next level, and left him with lasting memories.
“I learned so much from my teammates this year over the course of the season,” Martin said. “During good times, I’ve learned to stay focused on goals, but at the same time enjoy myself. I’ve never been around a group of guys that we can do anything with and still have fun with it. But it’s in the tough times where I learned the most. I learned to keep a smile on my face, no matter what’s happening. I learned to go hard for other people, and put aside personal stats and agendas for a greater cause, and to treat my teammates like family. We truly are brothers.”
Nola, the starting point guard and probably the most unselfish player on an unselfish team, said he learned about pride, respect and family while playing for Vintage.
“These will help me in basketball and in life by allowing me to take pride in what I am doing,” he said. “I also will respect, trust and treat people close to me like family, much like how me and my teammates treated each other these past four years.”
Nola said he also plans to play next year for a two-year school, such as Santa Barbara City College, and finish his playing career at a NCAA Division III college in Oregon.
He’ll take a lot of intangibles with him from Vintage.
“What I learned about my teammates through the best and worst times is that we were always a team, win or loss, and always respected and loved each other and never ever gave up on each other,” Nola said. “These qualities stayed true through high and low points all throughout the season, and we never let a win or a loss get in between our team bond.”
Wedding coached nearly all of his seniors for four years, the first two as Vintage’s JV coach.
“I’ve known these guys for years … so we are familiar with one another. This is a memorable group not just for basketball, but for being quality guys,” the coach said. “The best part about having so many of these guys for years was to be able to see all of them as freshmen and witness how they have all grown as people.
“This was a fun group to coach with the talent we had. What we lacked in size, we tried to make up for with energy, scrappiness and team play. I think that part of our success was how close-knit we were. For future Vintage teams, we hope that the younger kids see how well these guys got along on and off the court, how they cared for each other like family and that those coming to Vintage or currently at Vintage will want to experience that type of brotherhood in the basketball program.”
Many of the Crushers’ top players over the last three seasons were American Canyon residents, and are now the last seniors at Vintage from that city as American Canyon High will have its first senior class in 2012-13.
Though Vintage won’t have as large a region from which to draw athletes, Nola and Martin feel Wedding’s program can continue to be successful if players buy into it.
“It was never easy playing for Coach Wedding, but it was always enjoyable,” Nola said. “He was only hard on us when he needed to be, when we needed to pushed to play up to our capabilities.”
“It’s an easy thing to play for a man that you know cares about all the players individually and as a whole, and put everything into the welfare of the team,” added Martin.
“He just demanded that you gave 100 percent in return, and that’s really not too much to ask.”