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Part 5: C&C - Tiers don't matter (until they do)

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

In honour of Seniors Night tonight for the Langley Christian Lightning, here is our latest Connections and Chemistry article on their Senior Girls Basketball team and focusing on their two graduating seniors who will continue playing post-secondary ball next year (Ava Krepp and Makenna Gardner). Happy Seniors Night to LCL Seniors Abby Berg and Kate Vanderzalm too!

Before the 2016-2017 season, Head Coach Danie Gardner took a leap of faith and made the decision to move her team up from Single-A to Double-A for "the future of our program". Well the future of the program definitely thanks her for letting them show off their true potential.

The dominance they showed at the Single-A level has translated to success at the Double-A level and beyond. The Langley Christian Lightning Seniors Girls basketball team has been ranked #1 in Double-A for the entire 2019-2020 season. Being a Single-A school (remember, they are choosing to play up with Double-A) means that they have 78 or fewer girls in Grades 11 and 12 at their school. Quad-A? They can have 263 or more girls in Grades 11 and 12! In years past, there has been quite a skill divide between the tops of the tiers, but this year is proving that tiers do not always make the difference.

This season Langley Christian has defeated Quad-A Top 10 ranked teams Kelowna, Yale, Walnut Grove, Terry Fox, Lord Tweedsmuir, and Brookswood. Triple-A? They have defeated #7 ranked Duchess Park.

Those wins are great for the confidence and have provided them with quality games, but as the season starts to creep closer to an end, Langley Christian will really start focusing on making sure they defeat the teams in their Tier.

Since they moved up to Double-A in 2017, Langley Christian have finished 3rd twice at Provincials and are looking to improve on that this year. Leading the charge? Graduating Seniors Ava Krepp and Makenna Gardner.

Chemistry: Pickin' n' Rollin' like Stockton and Malone

I make reference to one of the greatest pick and roll combos of all time in the title, John Stockton and Karl Malone, and I'm hoping that reference is not lost on Ava and Makenna even though they were born in 2002 and Stockton retired in 2003 and Malone in 2004.

When talking with coaches about Ava and Makenna, one thing that comes up is their chemistry together. That has come from many years of playing together, both in school and on club teams during the summer.

Top Photo - Photos from 2015 of Ava with Marin Lenz (Abby Senior) and Makenna with Liz Kennedy (McMath), their Hoopster teammates. Bottom Photo - The girls after winning BBALL Nationals 2019 last summer with VK Basketball. These four girls played together from Grade 7 onward, but will be going their separate ways for post-secondary.

"Makenna and Ava are great complimentary players and they know each other so well that they know what the other one is going to do before she does it.  Their pick and role action is reminiscent of some of the great guard - forward combos," says their former club coach Chris Kennedy, "It is pretty cool that they got to play together in both school and club.  And they are great teammates.  They both always are looking to get better and are set to have a great finish to their high school season and launch into their university careers."

Besides being a great power forward, Ava is the type of player every team needs to be successful, but not always easy to find. You need energy? She will bring it. Great teammate? She will be that person too.

"The thing that makes Ava special is she is a fantastic teammate and hype builder on her team, she gets everyone going and brings great energy to every room she enters." - Ava's club coach, Anthony Beyrouti (VK Basketball)
Ava in uniform for her club team, VK Basketball

Besides the intangible skills she brings, Ava has put in the work to continue to push her potential. Coach Beyrouti says, "Ava brings great athleticism and finesse around the rim and has expanded her game to the three point line. Originally more of a multi sport athlete she has really fallen in love with the game and started to put the work in, her potential is through the roof and I think she will be a good USPORTS player for a long time." Ava will be heading off to Trinity Western University (TWU) next year to continue her basketball career.

Staying in Canada, but taking the NCAA route, Makenna will be suiting up for Simon Fraser University (SFU) next year.

"With Makenna, you are getting one of the top point guards and leaders in the province, she is constantly in the gym working on her game and putting in the time to take herself to the next level,"

All that hard work has paid off for Makenna, as she is consistently on the All-Star ballot and leading her team that has multiple weapons.

After spending four years playing for VK Basketball during the summer, Coach Beyrouti had lots to say about Makenna, "If she gets an open look at the rim it is pretty much 3 points and her ability to finish inside with different finishes is fun to watch. Being the daughter of a high level coach and in the gym from day one, her basketball IQ is through the roof and she can execute down the stretch at the highest levels. Its been a pleasure to coach a talent and person like her!"

That leads us into...

Connection: Same coach, many years apart

The obvious connection would be that Head Coach Danie Gardner is the mother of Makenna Gardner, but that is too easy. What I think is a really cool connection is how Makenna will get to be coached by someone that coached her mother.

Makenna driving to the rim in high school action. (Photo by Paul Yates property of Vancouver Sports Pictures 2019. All Rights Reserved)

Back when UFV was UCFV, Danie played two years there and was coached by Bruce Langford. Next year when Makenna heads off to the top of SFU mountain, her head coach will be the same Bruce Langford. (Psst. I was also coached by Bruce Langford for three years. Go Clan!)

It is not often that athletes get to experience being coached by the same coach as one of their parents. You know that any and all knowledge that was passed onto Danie from Coach Langford was then passed on to Makenna over the years. But if you know Coach Langford, you know there will be plenty more knowledge for him to pass on to Makenna once she gets to SFU.

But before that can happen, Ava and Makenna have a high school season to finish off and you know they hope to finish off their Senior Years at the Langley Events Centre with a AA Provincial Title.

Girls Basketball Provincials will be taking place February 26th to 29th, 2020 at the Langley Events Centre. Junior Girls, AA, AAA, AAA Provincials will all be taking place at the same time.

Written by: Katie Miyazaki

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