It's a victory that means so much more than another blue banner in the Terry Fox gymnasium.
It's a win for a family, a legacy, a teammate and a friend.
The chants of "2K Strong" were heard loud and proud by Terry Fox Secondary players and fans Saturday at the 2022 BC AAAA senior girls basketball provincial championships.
They reached a crescendo when players from the Port Coqutilam school its first-ever provincial title for the senior girls basketball team. But what will be remembered the most from the 2021-22 season was the team's motivation to leave everything on the court like Karin Khuong did.
"It's bittersweet, but our for our kids, it's been a difficult few years after losing Karin," explained head coach Mike Carkner in an interview with the Tri-City News after his third-ranked Ravens upset the top-seeded Riverside Rapids by a score of 77-75 in the final Saturday night (March 5).
"But they got back to the LEC [Langley Events Centre] and they love being on the big stage. And they just kind of took it to another level. So they're a tenacious group of kids."
.@TFSAthletics fans honouring the late Karen Khuong with signs of “2K Strong” — team also holds #2 jersey up during player intros 🔴🏀 She was a BC Jr. Girls basketball champion before passing from a rare soft-tissue childhood cancer in late 2020 | #PortCoquitlam @TriCityNews pic.twitter.com/sXpm3nIQ0m— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) March 6, 2022
Khuong died from a rare form of soft-tissue childhood cancer in October 2020.
Before she passed, she was part of the Ravens' 2019 BC junior girls provincials championship in a 76-36 win over the Kelowna Owls.
Tumours were discovered in her chest and stomach a year earlier in September 2018.
She was set to join the senior team the following year as as her disease went into remission.
"It's been a big focus for the last year-and-a-half for us; she was a big part of this program at the beginning," added Carkner.
"She was a great player in this program and started this program with us when we were younger. And so, we have her in our hearts and these kids played with that," he said. "She was such a passionate, great basketball player and a great person and we wanted to carry her legacy going forward."
UPSET 🔴🏆 #3 @TFSAthletics defeats #1 Riverside to claim 1st ever BC AAAA Sr. Girls basketball provincials banner | #PortCoquitlam @TriCityNews pic.twitter.com/CNEmBtDGxD— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) March 6, 2022
As much as they had wished Khuong could've been playing alongside them this year, she was with Terry Fox in spirit in the form of a jersey on an empty chair.
When the player intros were conducted, and Grade 12 forward Kianna Frost's name was called, she brought the #2 uniform out onto the court.
When the Ravens were able to secure leads, the crowds would chant "2K Strong." reigniting the players' motivation.
When it came time for the team photo with the trophy, banner and medals, Grade 12 guard Alisha Weloy made sure the #2 jersey was in the front row for all to see and remember Khuong.
"The overall win was for her," Weloy told the Tri-City News.
"We started [the tournament] low, and I think right when we remembered that we're playing for Karen, we started to play our game and that changed our momentum and everything."
Championship-winning smiles 😊 | #PortCoquitlam @TFSAthletics @TriCityNews pic.twitter.com/RqMTOktN8b— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) March 6, 2022
As is tradition, the winner of the basketball provincials cuts down the net from the winning basket.
Karin's mother Jennifer had the honour of climbing the ladder first to cut a string with players, fans, staff and parents loudly chanting "2K Strong."
In a fitting tribute last September, the City of Port Coquitlam renamed an outdoor court at Eastern Drive Park in Citadel Heights after Karin to remind residents of her legacy — known as "2K’s Court."
After she passed a GoFundMe campaign raised money for the new $20,000 scholarship fund that will award $2,000 a year to deserving graduating student-athletes for the next 10 years.
The first three were handed out in June 2021.