ABBOTSFORD — It’s the highest sign of opposition respect to have your offensive game so greatly feared that you wind up facing one junk defence after another.
And in a manner of speaking as we arrive at the stretch drive of her senior season, it’s the most clear and direct way in which the rest of the province can tell Marin Lenz that she is the 2019-20 B.C. girls high school Player of the Year.
Whether she’s taller for not than her listed height of 5-foot-6, the Abbotsford Panthers’ all-everything guard has proven to be the most unstoppable version of herself yet over a Grade 12 campaign in which she has both embraced the acts of high-volume scoring and veteran mentorship en route to leading her team into tomorrow’s B.C. Triple-A championship tournament with a No. 1 seed.
Abbotsford, No,. 1-ranked in the final Triple-A poll of the season, gets things going bright and early Wednesday when it hosts the No. 16-seeded Magee Lions of Vancouver in an 8:45 a.m. tilt at the LEC’s Centre Court complex. Underdog Magee is making its first B.C. tourney appearance in over 20 years.
Watch her and it’s easy to see that there is an old-school edge to her basketball persona, one defined by the game’s team aspects and undoubtedly influenced by her head coach and dad Prentice Lenz, who wrapped up his own high school playing career some 31 years ago at neighbouring MEI.
“I haven’t seen that number before,” Marin Lenz exclaims when asked about her 32 points-per-game scoring average, delivering that response in a manner which seems to indicate that such gaudy numbers are just better left unspoken.
“When I step on the court all I am thinking of is bringing energy and working hard,” continues Lenz, who also averages nine rebounds, eight assists and five steals per game. “When I do that, the rest of it kind of just comes.”
That’s the essence of her offensive game.
It’s borne out of the wellspring of her inner competitive will, and thus the brushstrokes which full her offensive canvas are anything but paint-by-numbers.
Instead, it’s simply an organic response as opposition defences tip their figurative cap and throw all manner of junk in her path.
In fact, quite comically, if you step into a Panthers’ practice, the best moments happen when one half of the Abby squad goes all rogue on Lenz, doing everything in their power to halt her powers of improvisatory creativity.
“We actually practice that stuff, double-teamming her and making her come up with different ways to score,” says Panthers’ veteran lead assistant coach Elmore Abraham.
“We put the box-and-one her, we triangle-and-two her, and we just try to see if we can catch her, but that is when she is able to improvise within the game.”
Reegan Ashton with additional help from Chelsea Dulku, and Marin’s younger sister, star Grade 9 Malia Lenz, comprise the usual trio of defensive stoppers assigned to disrupt her.
“There is so much competitiveness there, sometimes they do stop her,” Abraham continues. “But it gets heated, and there’s arguments and sometimes we have to come in and cool it down.”
More vocal and demonstrative on the court than her older sister Siena, currently a starting sophomore at NCAA Div. 2 West Texas A&M, she is nonetheless cut from the same competitive stone.
She can loop and scoop the ball through the basket in tight spaces in the half court, and she is able to knock down all manner of jump shots as well.
Yet ask Abraham about the most defined tool in her cache of many, and it’s the most basic one there is.
“Her speed is so elusive,” the coach says. “When she has the ball in her hand, no one can guard her. Her feet are so fast that she flies right by you with that first step. She doesn’t miss shots, but it’s that speed that puts her above the rest.”
And it’s that speed which makes her an equally dangerous defensive player.
“The thing that she does which no one really talks about is the way she steals the ball,” Abraham says of Lenz’s uncanny anticipation to disrupt an opposition ball-handler’s dribbling rhythm and then use that speed to turn a theft into an easy fast-break bucket.
“She always covers the other team’s top point guard, and she steals it left and right, Id’ say about six times a game.”
All of that puts Marin Lenz, who still hasn’t decided where she will begin her university career next season, in a pretty special place.
But again, she never gets to a place where she becomes full of herself, so any questions about her talent are ultimately deflected to reflect how it can help impact her teammates.
“This year I feel more of a leader so I want to make sure my team keeps working hard,” says Lenz, who has played on the senior varsity her entire high school career. “I want to make sure we have energy in practice and games, but we’re also so competitive that I also want to make sure that we have lots of fun.”
Put it all together, and Abraham, who has coached both football and basketball for decades, admits the 2019-20 Player of the Year sits in some pretty rare company.
“Don’t forget I coached Chase,” he reminds of Notre Dame’s NFL-bound receiver Chase Claypool, who was also an incredible basketball player.
“But if you say inch-for-inch” he prefaces with a pause. “Inch-for-inch I would say she is best player I have coached. It’s not all about offence. I am a defensive coach. I love defence. And she is the best defensive player I have ever coached.”
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