Excuse students at Santa Clara High School for finding it difficult to define final.
In the aftermath of the school's first state championship in any sport, and Ventura County's first in basketball, they've found the word has little to do with any sort of ending or conclusion.
First, the girls' basketball team wins the Southern Section 2-A Division final . . . and keeps right on playing. The team won another final--the Southern California Regional--before losing in the state semifinals.
The boys' team also wins the 2-A final . . . and takes only a fast break.
The Saints proceeded to win the regional final and the state final, trouncing Cardinal Newman High of Santa Rosa, 62-48, Friday night at Ventura College.
Despite the achievement, Santa Clara students were confronted Monday with three days of less enjoyable--but in some cases more suspenseful--finals: midterm exams.
"The kids look a lot happier than they normally do during finals week," said Jim Swisher, a Santa Clara administrator. "It's difficult to describe the feeling on campus. Winning a state championship is once in a lifetime. It's something the whole school can share."
Students celebrated the championship at a pep rally squeezed between classes Tuesday. Each player was introduced, and Kasha Clemons, a senior guard, thanked the students and faculty for their support during the long playoff run.
The team will be honored in coming weeks by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, the Oxnard City Council and the Oxnard Lions Club, school officials said.
Santa Clara finished the season with 17 consecutive victories--including all seven playoff games--and posted a 27-3 record. Two of the losses were forfeits that followed the Saints only loss on the court, a 39-38 defeat to Edison during the Estancia tournament in December.
Although the state title was Santa Clara's first since the Southern Section began sending its champions to the state tournament in 1981, the Southern Section championship was the Saints' 10th in 31 seasons under Coach Lou Cvijanovich. Santa Clara has won five Southern Section titles during the 1980s.
"I've got to say that this is the best team in the history of the school," said Cvijanovich, whose career record stands at 597-202. "I don't think the guys on my other teams would disown me for making that statement. A whole bunch of them saw this team accomplish what it did.
"We have a saying around here, 'Once a Saint, always a Saint.' "
This year's Saints met for dinner Saturday night, a gathering that was emotional for Cvijanovich.
"That dinner typified the togetherness these kids displayed all year," he said. "I sat there and had a big lump in my throat. And there were some tears."