She’s incredible. There’s not enough good things that can happen to a kid like that. – Bountiful head basketball coach Joel Burton

BOUNTIFUL — In the wake of a disappointment so painful it still brings tears to her eyes a year later, Kennedy Redding took refuge in the very same place where she’d suffered heartbreak just hours earlier — the basketball court.

“It was so hard when (Bountiful) lost last year,” said Ken Redding of the undefeated Braves' surprising overtime loss to Maple Mountain in the quarterfinals of the 4A state tournament. “That night, after she cried, she went to the gym to shoot baskets.”

Her mom, Marci added, “We asked if she wanted us to come and shag balls for her. She said no.”

Ken Redding struggles to control his emotions as he describes watching his daughter find her way after that loss.

“She went to the (LDS church) gym, and just shot baskets,” he said. “So I think that really says who she is. It hurt, but yet, it was time to get going.”

Redding, who tears up listening to her father’s description of her, said that loss was so difficult to get over, it’s hard to put it into words.

“We thought it was our year,” she said. “Losing was so hard. But I think it also helped us get through some of the hard moments this year. We knew what it felt like to not (win).” What Redding didn’t know is that there would be more challenges, more heartbreak and even more disappointment before she would guide not one but two Bountiful teams to state titles — first volleyball and then basketball.

The BYU-bound honor student was named this season’s Ms. Basketball because not only of her impressive athletic skills but also because leadership ability helped her unify a splintered volleyball team and a disappointed basketball team.

“We had a meeting the day after that loss a year ago, and there was nothing but tears,” said Bountiful head basketball coach Joel Burton. “That was just crushing to all of us.”

The players chose to take the bitter taste of that loss and use it as motivation to win that title this year.

“Every single one of them, it just lit a lot bigger fire underneath them,” Burton said. “They weren’t going to let that happen again. They weren’t going to get beat. We saw more effort, more work put into the off-season. When we got to the season, they were more determined. That was huge for us.” Burton said he wasn’t surprised at how his players responded.

“I wasn’t with this group of kids,” he said. “The seniors we had, they had this kind of drive pushing them forward. …It was a big motivator.”

Redding led the team averaging 23.14 points per game and 13.62 rebounds per game. She also averaged nearly four blocks per game.

“She’s one of our best athletes,” Burton said. “Most people, (you) see someone that tall, don’t necessarily see someone that athletic. Even we were surprised when we got her (as a sophomore because she played Junior High basketball in ninth grade). We were surprised at how fast she was, how coordinated she was and her overall athleticism. But her biggest strength is between her ears. She’s so smart about what she does.”

Redding started playing basketball when she was in grade school, but a deep passion for the game was ignited when she won a free throw shooting contest in fourth or fifth grade.

Basketball was her favorite sport until she began playing volleyball in high school and then club volleyball two years ago. She made a connection with a club volleyball coach who understood her passion for basketball, something that allowed her to embrace volleyball even more, her mom said.

As she talked with college coaches from both sports, she agonized over deciding which she’d play collegiately.

“Her decision (to choose volleyball) surprised all of us,” said Marci Redding. “She narrowed the schools to BYU, and once she knew she wanted to go to BYU, she just had to decide, 'OK, which sport?’”

She said telling basketball coaches from BYU and Oregon State that she was going to play volleyball for the Cougars were “very difficult phone calls to make.”

Her parents said she has always had a “sensitivity and compassion” about her that belies what a committed competitor she is.

A Mike Trout fan, she loves everything and anything outdoors – pickleball, swimming, hiking and just spending time with family and friends. She’s also an avid reader who is contemplating a number of career options, including teaching because “she loves little kids.”

Redding’s senior year began with high expectations as the Bountiful volleyball team was ranked No. 1 in pre-season polls. Then a lawsuit that made allegations against the team’s head coach tore the players apart and resulted in the suspension (and subsequent replacement) of the head coach. Burton was an assistant for the volleyball team, but he wasn’t allowed to coach for the rest of the season, leaving the girls with no coaches for several days.

A former Northridge high school coached them through a tournament before two interim coaches were named to finish the season.

Kennedy said the situation not only left the girls without coaches they knew, but it also “split our team up a little, and we knew we had to come together to win.”

“A district person asked the players what did they want to have happen with the season, and Kennedy said, ‘We want to win for our coaches,'” Marci said. “The goals for all the people involved, whether it was the coaches and players, or former coaches, they all still had the same goal for the team. That was important for Kennedy.”Winning a state title in volleyball was “so wonderful,”

And then there were the high expectations for basketball season, along with the fact that Redding could work with Coach Burton again.

The Braves managed to stay undefeated until Redding suffered a concussion just three weeks before the state tournament.

Redding said she knew her team would be fine without her, but she desperately wanted a chance to avenge the 2015 loss. It was what the girls had worked so hard all summer and winter to earn.

Her parents made her leave her shoes at home as she sat on the bench while she recovered from a concussion and cracked collarbone. Redding admitted the last region game, which was senior night, she would have begged to play if she’d had her shoes with her.

Burton said her commitment to every aspect of the program helped elevate the play of everyone involved with Braves basketball.

“She honestly doesn’t want to take credit for anything,” Burton said. “One of the biggest compliments she gets is from the young kids and families about how good she was with our sophomores. She made it so we were really a team from top to bottom. It’s going to be hard to find people who fill that role.”

Redding and her teammates chose one word to engrave on the inside of their championship rings — together. Redding said both title really were the result of extraordinary teamwork. Burton acknowledges that’s true, but also said the hole left by the affable, hard-working talent will be tough to fill.

“She’s incredible,” Burton said. “There’s not enough good things that can happen to a kid like that.”

Email: adonaldson@deseretnews.com

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