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Friday, December 13, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Bothell High Trio Loves To Just Play Basketball

Seattle Times East Bureau

BOTHELL - Ask Jen Babin, Becki Ashbaugh and Jennae Krell if they have any hobbies outside of basketball and you'll get a short response.

Save for school and Krell's interest in Stephen King stories, the Bothell High trio doesn't have any.

"I chose this," said Ashbaugh, the Cougars' 5-foot-6 junior point guard. "I have no regrets. I'd play basketball every minute if I could."

So would Babin and Krell. From long ponytails to excellent academics to the influence of fathers in their basketball development, the similarities they share seem more than coincidence.

Their single-minded devotion and summers of sweating on courts around the country have made them three of the best players in the KingCo Conference. All probably will receive Division I scholarship offers. And they are three talented reasons why Bothell is favored to win the conference championship this season and contend for the state title that eluded them last spring.

"We had really high expectations last year," said Babin, a 5-10 wing who was second-team All-KingCo. "We had the big 6-3 girl. We had the awesome point guard. We had the wings. We had it all. And I think we were really disappointed, really devastated because no one expected us to lose like we did.

"The championship . . . it's my expectation of this team."

Krell and Ashbaugh agree. As Krell said: "I think this is going to be our highlight year for a while."

While Ashbaugh and Babin receive most of the publicity for their offensive skills, Krell fashioned a reputation as KingCo's best defender by containing Lake Washington's All-KingCo performer Martha Yarbrough. Krell was taught in the driveway at an early age that basketball is a two-way sport. Her father, Ken Krell, lettered in hoops at the University of Washington in 1972.

"I can't even score on him if he tries to let me," said Krell, a 5-10 junior wing. "He lets me get up 6-2 and then we bet on trips to Disneyland. I shoot, he blocks it. I drive, he blocks it."

The others are long on parental influence as well. Ashbaugh grew up attending games - as many as four a week - with her father, David. He took Becki to her first Sonic game when she was 2 years old. The Ashbaughs first bought season tickets to Husky women's games when she was in fourth grade. Father and daughter also attended high-school games when they could.

"I grew up watching Jocelyn McIntire and Jacki Myers (both UW players) and Missy Stowell (Sammamish High School, University of Oregon)," said Ashbaugh, who was second-team All-KingCo last season. "It just looked like fun. You watch those great players and it really makes you want to go out there and work harder to become as great as they are."

Ashbaugh shoots three hours a day at the Pro Club in Bellevue during the offseason. Under the watchful eye of her stepfather, Norm Felix, Babin also has put in many extra hours. The senior struggled this summer, lost her confidence somewhere in California or Nevada at a select tournament, and has yet to regain her shooting touch.

"I talk to him a lot. He's one of the smartest guys I know in the game," Babin said. "He tells me to put my elbow in, the littlest things that really affect my shot. So I owe it all to him."

Bothell owes much of its recent success to this dynamic trio.

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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