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De Guzman plays through pain

Success of CIF title, state run has been bittersweet for Wildcats senior guard

March 15, 2012|By Gabriel Rizk, gabriel.rizk@yahoo.com
(Cheryl A. Guerrero/Staff…)

When the Renaissance Academy boys' basketball team captured its first CIF championship on March 3, players jumped into each other's arms, a few tears flowed and emotions ran high.

None of which is an uncommon sight when a team reaches its ultimate goal together after months of striving, but for Wildcats senior guard Vince De Guzman, the moment carried an extra poignant touch of bittersweet sentiment.

"It felt amazing capturing a CIF title. It feels good just winning it, not only for the team, but for my dad's memory," says De Guzman, who lost his father Napoleon De Guzman to a heart attack over the summer. "I kind of broke down right after that final buzzer. I hugged [Wildcats assistant coach] Niko [Fontanilla], who's been right there by my side through everything and after the game I was with my mom. It was just an emotional day after the game."

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From the beginning, Renaissance dedicated its season to Napoleon, who for years was an invaluable coach and mentor to the entire Wildcats family and, to Vince, a beloved father who was taken from him far too soon.

"[Napoleon De Guzman's] done a lot for everybody on the team," says senior point guard Troy Fontanilla, who's been close friends with Vince De Guzman since the two began attending Wildcats Coach Sid Cooke's basketball clinics several years ago. "It hasn't left our memories and we just want to keep that in mind when we're winning games and going through hard times."

De Guzman won't soon forget the flood of emotions that accompanied the Wildcats' 67-45 win over California Lutheran at Mater Dei High in the CIF Southern Section Division 6 championship game and its aftermath.

But he's hardly had a chance to digest it all yet, as the triumph was followed immediately by a run in the CIF State Division V tournament, which continues Saturday with a Southern California Regional Championship game against Village Christian at Ontario's Colony High.

The season that serves to honor Napoleon just keeps on going and now the Wildcats have a new goal in mind when they break every pre-game huddle with a hearty chant of his name.

"Our main goal is just to win the state championship," De Guzman says. "We know we can win it. We're just ready to win state."

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