NCS girls basketball: St. Vincent falls in section title game

St. Vincent's Ellie O'Neill (20) battles International's Cienna Gray (4), left, and Jasmine Sorrells (14) for ball possession and draws a foul during the NCS Division 5 girls basketball championship game between St. Vincent de Paul and International high schools in Albany on Saturday.. (ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat)

St. Vincent’s Ellie O’Neill (20) battles International’s Cienna Gray (4), left, and Jasmine Sorrells (14) for ball possession and draws a foul during the NCS Division 5 girls basketball championship game between St. Vincent de Paul and International high schools in Albany on Saturday.. (ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat)

By ALLIE COLOSKY
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

ALBANY — Despite losing in the North Coast Section Division 5 girls championship game Saturday, the St. Vincent girls basketball team had made school history before it stepped off the bus.

The Mustangs, appearing in the school’s first NCS title game, fell 51-41 to International of San Francisco.

“It’s an amazing feeling to know that leaving St. Vincent, we made our mark,” senior guard Grace Jennings said. “We’ve left our print on history.”

The No. 6-seeded Mustangs, the only Empire team left in the NCS playoffs, came into Saturday with a five-game winning streak.

“Sometimes when teams get what they want, they are done,” Mustangs coach Jim Fagundes said, “but these girls wanted to win the second round, then the next round, and then tonight here we are making history.”

The Mustangs forced 20 turnovers and were outrebounded 39-37. Ellie O’Neill led St. Vincent with nine rebounds and added five points.

“I think our defense has come a long way since the start of the year,” senior forward Ursyla Baumgarten said. “We trust each other and it takes the entire team.”

St. Vincent trailed 23-15 at the half.

Led by Baumgarten and Jennings, the Mustangs took the lead early in the second half, but couldn’t overcome International’s Natalie Kelly, who scored 15 of her 23 points in the second half.

“It’s a good team effort,” Fagundes said. “Everyone who goes in is required to play tough defense. They communicate and our defense always keeps us in it.”

Baumgarten finished with 12 points and five rebounds, and Jennings scored seven. Jacalyn Murphy had five points and four rebounds, and Rainey Henry had five points and five rebounds.

Maddie Perry finished with three points, while Olivia DeGraca and Taylor Owen had two points apiece. Rebecca Dodele and Kenzie Fairow each added a free throw.

The Mustangs were 13 of 22 from the free throw line.

The team has become a family, Fagundes said, and the senior leadership has influenced the younger players to step up in every aspect.

“The fact is they’re just a team,” he said. “Offense, defense, rebounding, it’s all the same. They are hard to scout, because if you take (one thing) away, we’re going to find it somewhere else.”

The Mustangs finished 25-7 overall, losing just twice in the last 19 games.

“Just getting this far is incredible,” Baumgarten said. “All the support we’ve been getting from our school and the community is great. It doesn’t feel like the season is ending.”

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