Photo by Chung Chow
In a culture of excellence, it’s perhaps wise to expect the unexpected. After all, creativity and innovation are hallmarks of champions. They’re forever challenging the status quo.
The McMath Wildcats senior high school girls basketball team embodies these qualities.
Buoyed by the previous success of the program, the players continually strive to reach even greater heights.
“There is a real commitment to the program,” says Chris Kennedy.
Co-coach of the Wildcats with Anne Gillrie-Carre, Kennedy says there are routinely girls, from Grade 8 through 12, in the gym Sundays working to better their games.
“We are lucky to have a number of parent and community coaches helping support the program,” Kennedy says.
And while fully respecting their coaches, and the wisdom of their words, sometimes even the players don the proverbial coach’s hat.
Earlier this season, Abby Zawada, a fourth-year player on the senior squad, and Grade 10 Liz Kennedy, already in her third year on the team, grabbed the whiteboard during a timeout to draw up a play in a way the other girls would relate to.
“That is something I haven’t seen in 30 years,” Chris Kennedy says. “It is great having leaders on the floor who are so in tune with the coaches.”
Zawada is consistently a top scorer each game, while Liz Kennedy was a city all-star a year ago.
Martha Melaku has quietly become one of the most reliable small forwards in the province, while Grade 11 Jayna Wilson has also emerged as a leader alongside Jalen Donaldson and Dakota Chan. The latter two are also both high-level soccer players.
“This helps,” Chris Kennedy says. “They are used to high level competition.”
The Wildcats are on the verge of a possible third straight city title. McMath will host the Richmond championships Feb. 5 to 7.
They’re also eying a fourth straight appearance at the provincials in March.
“Being there the last three years builds confidence,” Chris Kennedy says.
But clearly no one is taking anything for granted.
“We have worked to get a very difficult exhibition schedule this year to challenge us,” Kennedy says, hopeful it will pay dividends.
While success on the basketball floor is obviously a goal, far more is at play.
“We are working to support the girls to become leaders and good citizens.”
They displayed just that Sunday by spending the afternoon in the Downtown Eastside giving back to those less fortunate.
—The Richmond senior boys basketball championships are Feb. 6 to 8 at Richmond High.