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Glenlawn championship a story of love

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The Glenlawn Lions won the AAAA varsity girls’ provincial basketball championship last week in front of hundreds of supporters, but many minds were on one person who wasn’t there.


Bob Hazell, a longtime coach at the school and member of the Manitoba Basketball Hall of Fame (in three separate categories), died last August, seven months before his granddaughter, Kiara, was named a tournament all-star for the victorious Lions.


"If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard over the last 48 hours that Bob was happily looking down, I would be a rich man," said Glenlawn coach Bryan Kornberger.


Kiara Hazell, a 5-foot-8 forward who scored 13 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in a 54-42 win over Oak Park in the provincial final, didn’t take up the game until she was in Grade 7. But when she did decide to shift her focus from baseball and volleyball, her grandfather was there to coach her up.


"I fell in love with it right away," said the St. Vital resident. "He taught me how to keep my composure on the court and act responsible, and to not get down on myself if I don’t have a good game."


As far as her considerable basketball skills, Hazell said her grandfather taught her "everything" as he coached her for three years at Glenwood School and one year on the Glenlawn junior-varsity team along with several seasons at Norberry Community Centre.


The connections don’t end there. Bob Hazell coached a provincial team one summer of boys entering Grade 8, one of whom was Kornberger.


"I learned so much from her grandpa," Kornberger said. "A) How to coach basketball and b) how to treat people like you’d want to be treated yourself. He was a great man. He left an impression on me that will always be with me."


A guard until last year, Hazell switched to forward when she joined Kornberger’s squad. That allowed her to flourish as an offensive threat who could focus on driving the ball to the basket rather than dribbling it up the court. She also stepped up her defence and rebounding this year, playing a key role in the Lions’ full-court press.


"She was a real big part of our success," Kornberger said. "She came a long way and had a tremendous amount of perseverance. Her teammates love her."


It wasn’t easy for Hazell to play big games down the stretch without thinking about her grandfather, and how much she wished he could be in the stands.


"I was thinking about him a lot," she said. "It was tough, but it was motivating. I wanted to do well for him."


After the final buzzer sounded, Hazell teared up "more than a little" thinking about how proud he’d be of her and her teammates.


"He left an impression on me that will always be with me," Kornberger said. "I know that he was really hoping that this would happen. He was her biggest fan and it’s truly one of those great stories.


"It’s a story of love."

Twitter: @avisaper

avi.saper@canstarnews.com

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