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Kildonan-East becoming hoops hotbed

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The Kildonan-East Reivers junior varsity basketball teams are running parallel.

Both the Reiver boys’ and girls’ squads have been seeded third in the Manitoba High Schools Athletics Association’s AAA/AAAA provincial rankings for the weeks ending Jan. 22 and Jan. 29.

The ranking is a drop for the boys, who spent the early part of the season atop the list, but is a boost for the girls.

Girls’ coach Art Koop and boys’ coach Abe Araya are familiar with one another, having coached the Grade 9 boys’ team to a provincial title last season, but they each took charge of their own teams this season hoping to double down on that success. Koop also jumped over to the girls’ side to coach daughter Bailey.

Koop said there’s plenty of co-operation between coaches throughout the school as the Reivers have developed a strong program to keep a consistent plan of attack from Grade 9 play through to varsity. Koop credited administration for keeping players in Reiver colours, which has resulted in a top 10 showing for the varsity boys as well.

"It makes it a little bit easier. We’re not starting from scratch all the time," he said. "Coaches work well together. We just had the Grade 9 girls in here practicing with us and that’s fine."

It’s not always easy, as there isn’t always overlap in terms of team strengths. The boys are lifted by their big men while the girls’ guards lead their charge, but both teams have found success.

The boys fell from the No. 1 spot after a loss to St. Paul’s, but are working their way back to the top of the heap.

"They’re upset with it and they’re working twice as hard," said Araya. "Since that loss, we’ve played a lot stronger."

Boys’ co-captain Dharmjit Dhillon said the slip has added to the team’s resolve.

"We think that since we’re ranked third now, we should push even harder and work with more intensity to get ranked first again," he said.

As for the girls, Koop said the team’s focus has changed since it made the rankings, and stayed there, from the first week of the season.

"Our goal was just to get into the Top 10," said Koop. "In the first couple weeks of being in the Top 10, the girls started taking the game more seriously, and now they’re interested in moving up the ladder."

Girls’ co-captain Martina Akot feels the recognition added to the team’s swagger.

"It’s good going out into games knowing that we’re No. 3 and that we’re good," Akot said.

dan.falloon@canstarnews.com

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