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With final game looming, Lancers basketball player looks back on a long career

Piper Kehoe (left), a Lancers forward in her final year at Loyalist, is winding down her competitive basketball career. Photo courtesy of the Loyalist Lancers

By Ryan Peddigrew [1]

BELLEVILLE – After 14 years of playing competitive basketball, Piper Kehoe [2], a 23-year-old Loyalist College paramedic student from Belleville, is getting ready to play what will probably be her last competitive game ever.

When the Lancers play Algonquin College on Saturday, Kehoe, a forward, will lace up her court shoes for perhaps the last time, depending on whether the Lancers make the playoffs.

In a wide-ranging interview with QNet News this week, Kehoe said she picked up basketball in fifth grade after seeing an ad for tryouts for the Belleville Spirits [3]. She’d watched her older brother play school basketball, she said, and it motivated her to try out.

It was intimidating: “I didn’t really know where I stood among the other players … I was actually kind of surprised I made the team, because it was my first time playing basketball.”

Kehoe (centre) moved up to play with the senior varsity team at St. Theresa Catholic Secondary School when she was in tenth grade. Photo courtesy of Piper Kehoe

In the years that followed she played both club, with the Belleville Spirits, and house league, playing with and against boys.

“That was always a bit tough,” she said. “Sometimes they don’t really like the fact that a girl is more skilled than them on the basketball court. So that was a bit annoying.

“I just remember that they don’t like to pass as much to the girls, or they don’t trust that you can do some things on your own.”

It made her appreciate playing with the girls-only Spirits team, she said.

By the time she got to high-school basketball at St. Theresa Catholic, games were far more competitive and organized, she said. The players were bigger and more athletic, and ran strategy and plays. The years she was in Grade 11 and 12, the senior team made it to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations provincial championship tournament, through it fell both times in the semifinals.

The first time her career “ended” was at the end of high school. She was going to study kinesiology at Queen’s University in Kingston and had no plans to play organized basketball while she was there.

But she found her way onto the court to play intramural and pickup ball with some friends from high school who also went to Queen’s. She also did athletic therapy with the Queen’s varsity team. That, she said, gave her the itch to play again.

“It was weird to be away from competitive basketball. I got a little bit of a taste of it helping out … doing the athletic therapy, and that really reminded me of how much I missed it.”

When she graduated from Queen’s and decided to pursue more post-secondary education, she contacted Caleb Hugh, the women’s basketball coach at Loyalist, and began the journey back to the game she loved when she enrolled in the two-year paramedic program at her hometown college.

Practice five nights a week and games on the weekends were a lot to handle at first, she said. In her first year at Loyalist, the team finished with six wins and 11 losses. The highlight of that season for her was a game against Georgian College [4] in which she scored 17 points and added four rebounds, three steals and an assist in front of the home crowd.

Kehoe (centre) revived her competitive career in the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association after four years off while she attended Queen’s University. Photo courtesy of Piper Kehoe

This year, Kehoe’s final one at Loyalist, the Lancers are sporting a record of six wins and nine losses heading into their final regular-season game. The team is coming off an emotional win on Valentine’s Day [5] against St. Lawrence College, in which they beat the Vikings 75 to 66 at home. The win came on a night when graduating players in their final home game in a Lancers uniform were honoured. With her mother watching from the stands, Kehoe contributed 10 points with seven rebounds, one assist and one steal.

As one of the older players on the team, she tries to act as a leader, she said. Kehoe’s neither loud nor outspoken, and said she tends to lead quietly and by example. Her game too is driven by focus and calm, she said.

Now that the team has got past the sadness of playing its last home game ever, Kehoe said, it’s business as usual leading into the final regular-season game Saturday in Ottawa against Algonquin College, seeking a playoff berth.

“I feel like the game against St. Lawrence held a bit more weight for me than the one coming Saturday,” she said. “I’m still excited for it, but I don’t think it will get me quite as emotional as the last one.

She hasn’t thought much about the end, she said. She’ll miss the competitive and strategic side of the game she’s played most of her life, and would consider being part of a coaching staff somewhere down the line, she added.

As far as any future playing, it remains to be seen:

“I’m sure I’ll always find ways to play basketball.”