SURREY — Making history is one thing, but when you do it with the kind of symmetry that the senior girls basketball team at Sullivan Heights Secondary has, it just makes it all the more special.
First consider that its heartfelt 55-54 win over Port Moody’s Heritage Woods Kodiaks this past Valentine’s Day at the Fraser Valley AAA championships insured the Stars their first-ever berth in the B.C. championships set to begin February 28 at the Langley Events Centre.
Then consider that the team’s six seniors, led by fluid scoring guard Emma Kramer, were all born in the same year their school opened back in the year 2000.
Finally, how about the fact that the team is coached by Emma’s mom, Lani Kramer (nee Kalutycz), who formerly played at Simon Fraser, and later coached at the school on the staff of head coach Bruce Langford, who just happens to have recruited Emma Kramer to join his program next season.
And on top of all that, head coach Kramer, a 1985 D.W. Poppy grad who later played nine professional seasons in Germany, has vowed that she will step down from coaching after this season.
“They are trying to talk me out of it,” said Kramer of her underclassmen who consist of three Grade 11s and Kramer’s Grade 10 daughter Sophia. “But this will be my last year.”
Kramer a seasoned coach who was part of the SFU staff which won the 2002 CIS national title with superstar point guard Teresa Gabriele (nee Kleindienst), had stepped out of the head coach’s seat last season and was not planning on a return this season.
Yet after coaching basically the same core of players since the 2013-14 Grade 8 season, one which ended in a loss in the provincial final, she reflected with her players on what the 2017-18 campaign could mean, then elected to return.
“I talked with the girls to make sure it was OK with them,” begins Kramer of a team which also features seniors Jessica Hernandez, Baldeep Mattu, Joti Khjangura. Mehtaab Deol and Gisha Sangha. “I told them that I would do whatever I could, but that they in turn, would have to be completely committed.”
A barnstorming schedule followed, one that currently sits at around 45 games played, and it has steeled the Stars’ chemistry.
In fact when Emma Kramer, who averages 26 points and 14 rebounds per game, faced an inevitable array of junk defences from Heritage Woods, so many others stepped forward and made big shots.
“Emma is our scorer and they played a triangle-and-two on her,” begins coach Kramer of the Stars, who went on to finish fourth at the Fraser Valleys, “but we had some of our other girls who don’t normally score hit some really big shots for us. For such an important game, it’s one of the best feelings I’ve had from basketball.”
Sullivan Heights followed with consecutive losses, beginning with an 85-65 setback in the semifinals to eventual champion Abbotsford, and a 73-44 loss to Semiahmoo in the third-fourth game.
“We were OK against Abbotsford but we fell apart against Semiahmoo and it might have been that we had already achieved what we wanted,” said Kramer of securing that provincial tourney berth. “Now, I have a week to build them back up.”
Kramer admits the program will be challenged to compete at the same level next season, making Sullivan’s 2017-18 team a collection of true shooting Stars.
Thirty-one other senior varsity teams will have their own stories to tell when the 2018 B.C. AA and AAA tournaments open in nine days at the Langley Events Centre.
Few, however, will have the same kind of home-spun, feel-good vibe of the Sullivan Heights Stars, whose first time at the Big Dance has history written all over it.
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