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She’s ready to make an impact at Bakersfield

Jeff Tully

On the basketball court, nothing stops Christine Kepenekian from

getting what she wants.

But when it came to finding a quality college program to play for,

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it looked as if the Burbank High girls’ star had been stopped cold.

Only a few weeks ago, Kepenekian -- who graduated last month --

was prepared and set to play for Van Nuys L.A. Valley College.

“I was even working out with the team and I was getting my classes

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ready to go,” Kepenekian said. “Valley was the place I was expecting

to go and I was ready to go there and play.”

However, Kepenekian’s best laid plans took a turn for the good.

She was contacted by Cal State University Bakersfield and offered

a scholarship to play for the NCAA Division II women’s team.

It was a offer Kepenekian jumped at.

Although she felt badly about having to leave Valley College on

such short notice, the talented guard said she couldn’t pass up the

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opportunity to play for the successful program at CSUB, as she signed

a scholarship last month.

“They were relying on me to be at Valley Collage next season,”

Kepenekian said. “So it was hard for me to tell them that I wasn’t

going to be playing for them. I felt really bad about it.

“But they were really good about the news. They wished me well and

they were happy that I had found a good place to play like

Bakersfield.”

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The university had shown a great deal of interest in Kepenekian

prior to her senior season. She even took a trip to the Bakersfield

campus and met with Roadrunner coaches and players.

But as the 2002-03 Bulldog season got underway, Kepenekian said

she stopped hearing from the university.

“I figured they either forgot about me, or they had found someone

else who they wanted more,” she said. “I really didn’t know what

happened.”

When Kepenekian finished up another fine season with Burbank in

February, there was still no word from CSUB.

It was then that she decided that playing at Valley College would

probably be her best option.

That was, however, before the Roadrunners came back into the

picture.

With a dedication to success and a fine program in tact,

Kepenekian said CSUB is a nice fit for her.

“I wanted to play for a successful program, that was important to

me,” she said. “But it was also important for me to go to a college

that wasn’t too far from home. Bakersfield has all of that. It’s also

great because the campus is less than an hour and a half from

Burbank.”

*

Although Kepenekian might have thought CSUB had forgotten about

her during the season, that was not the case.

Second-year Roadrunner Coach Tim La Kose said he has had his eye

on the potent scorer for some time.

“We have known about Christine for a while, and we have been

following her,” he said. “So she was still in our plans.”

Impressed by her skills on the basketball court, La Kose said

Kepenekian beings a wealth of athletic and academic excellence to the

university.

“She is just an all-around good person,” La Kose said.

“But as far as basketball wise, she can do so many things on the

court. She has proven to be a great scorer, she can run and she can

play defense.

“We are looking forward to having her here and we feel privileged

to be able to have an athlete of her caliber in our program. We are

expecting good things from her.”

Despite playing for a Burbank (12-15) team that experienced its

share of ups and downs last season, Kepenekian provided leadership

and an impressive offensive punch for the Bulldogs.

The three-time Burbank Leader All-Area star was among the top

players in the state in scoring, averaging 24.1 points a game. She

also averaged 13.5 rebounds, five assists and four steals a game.

Proving she is a potent scorer from the outside, Kepenekian made

64 of 157 three-point attempts.

One of her most impressive accomplishments came in December in the

Bellarmine-Jefferson Holiday Classic. Kepenekian scored a season-high

40 points in leading Burbank to a 61-58 win against Van Nuys

Montclair Prep and its superstar Eshaya Murphy, who has signed with

USC.

She also had a fine Foothill League game against Canyon in which

she scored 23 points and had 24 rebounds.

However, Kepenekian’s most impressive statistic has to do with

consistency. In the Bulldogs’ 27 games, she scored in double figures

in all but one contest -- a game against Saugus in which she was

injured.

“What was one of the most impressive things to us about Christine

is her consistency,” La Kose said.

“She players in a very tough league and no matter how many players

they put to defend her, she was still able to do well and get her

points.

“To be able to do that, and to be able to overcome adversity, that

tells me a lot about Christine as a basketball player -- and as a

person.”

Kepenekian joins a Roadrunner program that thrived during the

2002-03 season, putting together a 29-2 record and winning the

California Collegiate Athletic Assn. title with a 21-1 mark.

Along with putting together a 21-game conference winning streak,

the team also won the West Regional and advanced to the elite eight

in the Division II playoffs, losing to eventual-champion South Dakota

State in the quarterfinals.

CSUB ended the season ranked fifth in the nation.

In its three years of existence, the Roadrunners have advanced to

the postseason all three seasons.

With their share of talented returning players, the Roadrunners

did lose All-American point guard Diane Dittburner.

“With our point guard gone, we are hoping that Christine can come

in and help us at that spot,” La Kose said.

A perennial All-Foothill League award winner, Kepenekian is just

happy to be playing for a program that is expected to win --

something she was unaccustomed to at Burbank.

“Although we didn’t win as much as I would have liked at Burbank,

it was fun for me and I learned a lot,” she said.

“But I’m just excited to be playing in college and I am really

looking forward to the experience.”


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