Many coaches have their child on their team. The chance to guide a daughter through her sports career can even be a factor in choosing the profession.
Tom Kelly coached his daughter, Trina, at White Pass High School 26 years ago. And now he coaches Trina’s daughter, Kiara Steen.
“But how many grandads get a chance to coach their grandkids?” Kelly wonders.
Or, in his case, how many grandfathers get to watch their granddaughter help produce a dramatic comeback, earning his team a state championship?
Saturday at the Yakima Valley SunDome, Steen was one of three double-figures scorers as W.F. West High School rallied from a 15-point deficit to win the Class 2A title with a victory over Archbishop Murphy.
Steen’s consistent drive and leadership on both offense and defense as the point guard for the Bearcats’ second state-championship team in five seasons is why she has been selected as The Olympian’s 2018 All-Area player of the year.
“She loves playing for my dad,” said Trina Steen. “For his last granddaughter to come through and win a state championship with him was amazing.”
Kiara Steen wasn’t alone as a standout for W.F. West (25-2) this season. She shared 2A Evergreen Conference MVP honors with fellow senior Julia Johnson.
At state, junior post Erika Brumfield was named first-team all-tournament, and Steen second team. All three play hard. All three are members of this season’s All-Area team.
Steen shouldered the responsibility of running the point for a team expected to win every night out.
“We’re a running team and she triggers our fast break,” Kelly said. “Getting us into our half-court offense is an overlooked skill. It can be tough.”
Interestingly — though Steen has excelled on the basketball court since fourth grade as the sport pushed aside softball and cheerleading as her favorite — she only become a point guard last season as a junior.
“She was never the point growing up,” Kelly said.
Steen wasn’t immediately comfortable with the switch.
“I was a little iffy with it. It was confusing,” she said. “I was used to getting out and running a lane on the fast break. At point I had to come back and get the ball. Now I like taking leadership and having control on offense.”
The results speak for themselves. In both of Steen’s seasons at point guard, W.F. West earned a state trophy. The biggest this year, and a third-place finish in 2017.
Individually, Steen averaged 12.3 points, 3.8 assists and 2.4 steals as a senior.
She becomes the Bearcats’ third All-Area player of the year selection in the past six seasons, joining posts Jamika Parker (2013) and Nike McClure (2014).
Both went on to the play in college, with McClure setting the Pac-12 single-game shot-blocking record and the Washington State career record for rejections.
Steen also plans to play at the next level, beginning at Wenatchee Valley Community College.
Kelly points to the positive influence Steen, and Johnson, his two seniors, had on this season’s team.
“We have rules about not being late, having your ankle braces already on, not forgetting your reversible practice jersey. The girls were never late. We had next-to-no drama,” he said. “It was the least stressful year I ever coached.”
It may have been Kelly’s least stressful year, but it ended with two excruciating days.
In Friday’s state semifinals, W.F. West shot 17 percent from the field in the first half and trailed hometown favorite East Valley of Yakima by nine points in the third quarter.
The Bearcats rallied. With five seconds to play, Steen fed Johnson for a tie-breaking layup that completed a 40-38 win.
Just two minutes into the second quarter Saturday, W.F. West trailed Archbishop Murphy, 25-10. The Bearcats shot only 21.7 percent from the field in the first half. Then Johnson dominated the third quarter, Steen the fourth, and the Bearcats were champions with a 64-52 win.
“There’s a lot of pressure, but I wasn’t nervous,” Steen said. “Close games make us realize how much we want to win. Against Archbishop, I knew we’d make our shots in the second half.”
After sophomore Taya McCallum gave W.F. West its first lead with a 3-pointer as the third quarter ended, the Wildcats tied it twice. But Steen got the lead back both times, first with a 3-pointer, then with a pair of free throws.
“She’s got a motor a lot of kids don’t have, a lot of grit,” Kelly said. “There’s a lot of fight in her.”
Meanwhile, in the stands, Trina Steen was experiencing the rare emotion of watching her daughter’s team struggle to get a cherished win.
During the regular season, fans sometimes told Kelly they weren’t going to come to games they knew the Bearcats would easily win. The East Valley and Archbishop Murphy games were different.
“It was nerve-wracking. They’ve hardly ever been down before,” Trina Steen said. “But I knew they wanted it so bad. It was a perfect ending.”