That is one word second-year coach Paul LaFountain has been focused on since he took over the BFA-St. Albans girls basketball program last season.
After two years as a JV girls coach at South Burlington, LaFountain took over the varsity boys team at BFA-Fairfax before taking over the Comets program last season.
He wanted to use his first season to start to instill a successful culture within the program and got off to a good start last year and will look to keep building on that this season.
“I think culture is the most important thing to any program or team. It is the standard that players, coaches and fans live up to which either leads to success or failure,” said LaFountain. “Obviously success and failure isn’t only defined by wins and losses, but it is about treating each other the right way, have a team first mentality and being mentally, emotionally and physically tough.”
BFA finished last regular season with an 11-9 record playing through the tough Metro Division. After winning in the play-in round, they lose a tough game against a good Mt. Mansfield team in the quarterfinals.
“We made strides in regards of starting to build the culture last year,” said LaFountain. “But coming into the second year, the players and coaches are all more comfortable with each other since we went through the process of building relationships and getting to know each other last year. Now we can focus on the smaller details and really set a foundation.”
The Comets will have a big returning group of players this season after only graduating one from last year’s squad.
Key returning players from last year’s team include Caitlyn Dasaro, who average 11.4 points per game to go along with 7.2 rebounds a game. She also average three steals a game. Maren McGinn (10.5 PPG, 8.7 RPG) will also be another key returning player in the post. Alexis Kittell will also be back at her point guard position after averaging seven points, two steals and almost two assists a game last year.
“It has been really exciting to be back in the gym with so many returning players,” said LaFountain. “We returned the majority of our junior varsity team as well. We are seeing the growth, physically, mentally and maturity wise, which has been a very proud moment for myself and (JV coach/Varsity Assistant) coach Dylan Baker.
“It is unfortunate that we were unable to really take it to the next level this summer with open gyms and practices like we normally would have. But the girls have responded well to being back in the gym and have been working their tails off.”
LaFountain spent last season getting focused on getting every player on both the varsity and JV levels minutes on the floor in every game in just about any situation.
Also returning to the varsity program from last year’s team are Cadence Moore, Kaylee McKenzie, Loghan Hughes, Iris Burns, Mackenzie Moore and Bethany Sanders.
Those minutes will continue to provide the program with a lot of depth throughout what could be a very condensed season when it starts up.
“Last year, it was very important to get everyone comfortable on the court for both levels as our JV team was mostly freshmen and our varsity team had only one senior,” said LaFountain. “This year, we are looking to lean on those same players, but now they know what to expect on the court and how to manage the speed of the game. Despite how last year finished, I was very proud of our program and I think everyone is ready to build on that.”
After COVID-19 shut down the winter season before the Division I girls basketball tournament could be completed, the Comets are anxiously waiting to embark on another journey through the very difficult Metro Division.
And it all starts with one word.
“It begins and ends with the culture,” said LaFountain. “We need to continue to have a team first attitude and excel in particular roles while trusting our teammates in all situations. This is a very difficult thing for a team to achieve, but it is also what allows teams to win championships. A selfless attitude will go a long way and we have shown we certainly have enough talent to compete versus anyone in the Metro.”
The Comets are currently awaiting along with the rest of the state for Governor Phil Scott to give the go-ahead to winter athletics to move forward with game schedules.