PORT COQUITLAM — Karin Khuong’s indomitable spirit has always been a vital part of the DNA of the Terry Fox Ravens’ senior girls basketball team.
Khuong, who on Sunday lost her two-year battle with cancer at the tender age of 16, had defied the odds this past February by subbing into her team’s opening-round game at the B.C. senior girls Triple-A basketball championships despite a recurrence of her condition.
Although cancer kept her out of games for the vast majority of both her 2018-19 (Grade 9) and 2019-20 (Grade 10) seasons, she had by that time already left an indelible presence on her teammates, one which in memoriam, can only be described as intangibly special.
“As a youth player she was an elite athlete,” said Terry Fox coach Mike Carkner said Tuesday morning of the 5-foot-6 guard. “She was a tremendous ball player. Tremendous vision.
“And the things that were seen with her fighting her cancer… they were all attributes which were huge on the basketball court,” he continued. “She was courageous, fearless, and had this kind of very quiet confidence that when she got on the court, good things happened. At that young level, that was huge for our team and kind of propelled us. (It’s) something that has been instilled in us, and these kids have always had an ability to rise up on a big stage. I think a lot of that comes back to Karin, at that younger age, being our leader.”
Khuong was originally diagnosed with cancer in September of 2018, not too long after her team placed second at the Junior NBA club nationals.
Known as the PoCo Galaxy, the entire club team moved into the high school ranks for the 2018-19 season, and although Khuong was unable to play, she was at her team’s side the entire way en route to the Ravens putting together an undefeated season en route to winning the 2019 B.C. junior girls championship title.
By this past December, with her cancer in remission, Khuong valiantly fought her way back to strength and was able to not only get into a game for the first time in over a year, a video clip shows her draining a three-pointer against Coquitlam’s Centennial Centaurs in a game played Dec. 10.
KARIN "2K" KH?UNG— Terry Fox Athletics (@TFSAthletics) December 11, 2019
Suited up for the 1st time in over a year after beating Stage 4 cancer in tonights 101-10 win over the Centaurs. The Ravens were draining the 3pt shot with ease, even Karin got in on the action as you can see as the bench erupts.@TerryFox43 @TFSRavens @sd43bc pic.twitter.com/LG3fAzVxu4
“It was an amazing feat just to see her work to get her muscle tone and her strength back,” added Carkner.
Yet even with a recurrence of her cancer in January, Khuong still found a way to play with her team at provincials, getting subbed into the team’s opening round victory over the John Oliver Jokers with 30.5 seconds remaining amidst a standing ovation.
“It was great, that was a really special moment with the reception she got,” Carkner continued. “I said to (co-coach) Teena (Frost) ‘I really don’t want to put her out there.’ She wasn’t in great shape. I wasn’t sure how she would respond physically, and I didn’t want to put her in a tough situation.”
Magical moment at BC Girls Provincial Championships…Karin Khuong, who’s battling Stage 4 cancer, enters game to standing ovation! pic.twitter.com/P2mPZnYNjJ— JAY JANOWER (@JayJanower) February 27, 2020
Yet upon getting into the game, Khuong wasn’t content to just play catch with her teammates. As physically compromised as she may have been that night, she was determined to execute her job in a ‘business as usual’ way.
“It was quite funny, because Karin’s like ‘I’m not just going to keep throwing it back and forth,’” Carkner says. “Then she starts to drive and kick it out, and then she goes to the other side of the floor and does the same thing. She really got engaged in the game. It was typical Karin. She took a situation and just said ‘I can do this.’”
After the game, in a story reported by Dan Kinvig for VarsityLetters.ca, Khuong said of being able to get on the floor with her teammates at the provincial championships: “I haven’t played in a while, and they wanted to make this moment special for me, and they definitely did. It meant a lot.”
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