BURBANK HIGH -- Playing in the tough Foothill League, the Burbank
High girls' basketball team hasn't exactly been able to strike fear
in its opponents the past few years.
However, when it comes to the Bulldogs' top player -- Christine
Kepenekian -- she has been able to rattle her share of teams, as well
as cause headaches for more than a few coaches.
Ask Valencia Coach Jerry Mike about the 5-foot-7 senior and his
mind races back to the night of Jan. 17, when Kepenekian's long
three-pointer at the buzzer was the difference in a 52-49 Viking home
loss to the Bulldogs.
"Up until that point, we had done a pretty good job on Christine.
But she is so strong that we tried to deny her the ball on that last
play, but couldn't. And she is so skilled that she takes one dribble
on a cross-over and then hits a big shot that wins the game for them,
despite being double-teamed," Mike said.
"I think Christine is a very strong and talented offensive player
and she is easily one of the best players we face every year."
Despite her last-second heroics, Burbank Coach Ricky Hawthorne
points out Kepenekian's 17 points and 13 rebounds against Valencia
was not one of her better outings.
A better Kepenekian game might be more like the 40 points she
scored Dec. 26 against Van Nuys Montclair Prep -- and USC-bound
senior Eshaya Murphy -- as the Bulldogs upset the Mounties, 61-58, in
a Bellarmine-Jefferson Holiday Classic game.
In the Montclair Prep game, and other games where everything is
clicking for Kepenekian and her teammates, she said she gets so
caught up in the action that she has no idea what her statistics are
until the game is over.
"But no matter how many, or how few, points I score, nothing
matters unless the team wins. The success of the team always comes
first with me," said Kepenekian, who was the Leader All-Area Player
of the Year as a sophomore.
"Even though I was scoring a lot of points the last couple of
years, we weren't winning, and the games weren't near as much fun as
they are now. We have great chemistry this year and we have a lot of
fun together on, and off, the court."
Prior to Friday's Foothill League game against Saugus, the
17-year-old Kepenekian averaged 24.8 points and 13 rebounds a game.
She also collects five assists and five steals a contest.
Kepenekian hasn't been stopped by any team this season. In 21
games, she has scored in double figures 20 times. In a league game
Jan. 10 against Saugus, she suffered an ankle injury that sidelined
her after scoring two points.
The Bulldogs are 12-9, 1-4 in league. But even if Burbank doesn't
finish among the top three league teams -- earning an automatic CIF
Southern Section playoff berth -- it has already reached the 11-win
plateau needed to apply for an at-large postseason spot.
It hasn't always been a joy putting the ball in the basket for
Kepenekian. In fact, it wasn't love at first sight when it came to
basketball, as she was introduced to the sport 10 years ago when her
father set up a hoop in the driveway of their North Hollywood home.
However, by the time her family moved to Burbank a few years
later, she was hooked, and nothing was going to come between her and
Hard work and dedication has helped make her a great shooter, and
a player who is versatile enough to play every position. But it might
surprise some that scoring is not Kepenekian's favorite part of the
game. Instead, she finds rebounding and playing tough defense more
With a wealth of skills, one thing Kepenekian wasn't able to do
before this season is solve the woes of the Bulldogs as a team. In
years past, Kepenekian's exploits would usually be overshadowed by
"That's where Christine has grown the most as a person. In the
past, she would do everything you could ask of a player, and we would
lose, and it was really wearing her down," Hawthorne said. "But this
year, the other girls are really stepping up and playing to their
ability, which takes a lot of pressure off of Christine.
"But when we need to have her step up and make a big play, like at
the end of the Valencia game, she's so strong-willed that nobody
could deny her the ball, or her shot. And the result was one of our
biggest wins of the season."
While Kepenekian is making a name for herself as one of the better
local players, she is still not sure how the notoriety translates to
helping her land at a college next season. She is still deciding if
she is better suited for a four-year program or a community college
"People talk to me about playing ball in college all the time, but
I'm just weighing my options and trying to make the decision that is
best for me and best for my future," said Kepenekian, who has a 3.6
"I would much rather play at one of the local junior colleges and
get my general education classes out of the way, rather than try and
walk on at a four-year school not get much playing time."
With at least four games left in the high school season -- and
maybe more if the Bulldogs advance to the playoffs -- Kepenekian
wants to end her career on a high note, for her, and for her
Kepenekian likely has a lot more scoring left to do, and maybe
even some more heroics that will have opposing coaches reaching for