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Photos: Riverside Rapids senior girls basketball ready to defend B.C. AAAA championship

Seniors Avery Sussex and Olivia Wheatley ready to lead the drive for a second consecutive championship for the Port Coquitlam school.

In the 26 years Paul Langford’s coached senior girls basketball at Riverside Secondary in Port Coquitlam, he’s seen players come and go.

Winning the Rapids’ first AAAA provincial championship last spring doesn’t change that equation.

Gone are four seniors from that top squad including 6’2” Natalie Curley, who’s now a freshman for the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Red Leafs.

"You can’t really replace 6'2"," said Langford. "We will have to play differently."

That means emphasizing speed and hard play instead of relying on size to win battles beneath the basket.

But when you’ve got senior point guard Avery Sussex as the linchpin for the new approach, Langford said he has little reason to worry.

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The 5’8” Sussex is already committed to the University of California at Davis next year and what she may lack in size she more than makes up for with her grit and determination, Langford said, calling her a great driver of the team’s offence and an “assist machine.”

She’s "next level," he said.

Sussex will be complemented fellow senior Olivia Wheatley, who’s headed to Thompson Rivers University (TRU) next fall and a trio of up-and-coming juniors.

They include guards Annabelle Neufeld and Mayliyah Mendoza as well as shooter Jorja Hart, who Langford characterized as another Sussex in waiting.

He said the combination makes for a team that wants to move the ball and is hungry to score.

"You’ve got to adapt to the squad that you’ve got," Langford said, adding his role will be to help his players find their identity as a team and roll with it.

"We got a lot of the pieces," he said. "You’ve got to keep your fundamentals going and just play good basketball."