Canterbury High School senior Aaliyah Gaines tries to be as diplomatic as possible.
She was asked a loaded question: What's the difference between former coach Scott Kreiger and current coach Wayne Kreiger (Scott's dad)?
Much like Class A No.1 Canterbury's focus on not looking past the next game, Gaines carefully weighs her words.
“I think Scott was way more laid back; Pop is actually on us all the time,” Gaines said. “There's no slacking off with him. He's more serious, but it wasn't that much of a change. I think we slowed down and have more halfcourt (offense), but it's not much of a change.”
That might be another way of saying Wayne Kreiger is an old-school coach. The slight style change hasn't changed the mindset at Canterbury. The Cavaliers are 21-3 heading into the Class A Caston Regional, where a potential showdown with No.2 Oregon-Davis awaits if both win their semifinal games.
Like his son before him, Wayne Kreiger makes sure no one looks past the next opponent, West Central.
“Coach says (before tourney games), 'You can't win the state championship tonight, but you can lose it,' ” Canterbury senior Bailey Farley said. “That's definitely our motto. We're always building up to that ultimate goal, but we can't look so far ahead because then you can lose it right now.”
Farley looks for just the right words, too, when describing the difference in coaching styles.
“Coach Wayne Kreiger is definitely a little bit more in your face,” Farley sadi. “He's always trying to pump you up and let you know when you do something wrong and when you do something right.”
The transition in coaches wasn't too difficult, of course, as Wayne had been working with the program the last couple seasons before Scott took over this fall as the boys coach.
Goals and standards remain the same. Canterbury is seeking its second straight Class A state title and fifth in the last six years.
This year's team is as talented as any the Cavaliers have fielded, with four players averaging in double figures, led by Farley, Gaines, Darby Maggard and Kindell Fincher. Fincher also averages in double figures in rebounding.
Those four girls were part of the starting lineup a year ago, and junior Emma Hyndman has stepped in in place of last year's only senior, Maddie Troxel.
“We have several kids who can put the ball in the basket,” Wayne Kreiger said. “We have good speed, which helps our transition, and Kindell Fincher has been a double-digit rebounder and that helps us get the ball out. It's a combination of things.”
Maggard and Gaines run the offense at the point, and the number of offensive weapons makes it hard for opponents to design a defense to slow Canterbury.
“Whoever has a mismatch, we try to go to them, or to whoever had an advantage to an opponent guarding them,” Gaines said. “I don't think we have a certain person to get the ball to, everyone on the team is capable of scoring. We just get the ball and go.”
Canterbury leads the state in all classes with an average of 74 points per game.
“Any one of us can produce,” Farley said. “It's great to know you can depend on your teammates like that.”
The unselfish character of the players is something that Scott Kreiger instilled during his run as the girls head coach. It's likely something he first learned from watching his father coach.
Team-oriented play is ingrained at Canterbury, Wayne Kreiger said.
Despite recent state success, Kreiger says it's important his team never lose sight of the importance of the game at hand.
“Our attitude is ' Survive and advance,' ” he said. “You can't take anybody for granted because everybody wants to advance. We haven't had any problem in taking anyone for granted. It gets more difficult every game. That's something we talk about, something we stress.”
There's a different Kreiger honing this team for the postseason now, but the same principles apply. The same pressure is in place.
“We try not to focus on the rankings so much and just come out and play,” Gaines said. “We can't take any days off. We can't slack off. We have to come to play and get back to that state championship game.”