Sandovals keep it all in the family
“Ten seconds, down by three,” yells Eagle Valley girls basketball coach Mike Vidakovich at practice Wednesday, as an inbounds pass from Rachel Sandoval trickles to midcourt and into the hands of her cousin Trista.
Trista dribbles to the top of the key and sizes up her options. To her left guard Amanda Padilla is hanging tight on the 3-point arc, waiting for direction. Underneath the basket, center Kenzie Shreeve is fighting for position against backup Kelli Verderber, looking for an entry pass so that she can draw in the defense and then kick the ball back out to the perimeter.
With the clock clicking towards triple zeros, Trista grows impatient with how long its taking for things to develop and decides to lower her shoulder for a drive towards the hoop. As she slices into the paint, though, eyes bulging, teeth clenched she hears, “Trist! Trist! Trist!” in her right ear and slows a bit.
With only one quick glance, Trista turns right and rockets a pass to an open Rachel, who from six inches behind the 3-point line squares up and launches a rainbow of a shot.
All 10 eyes on the floor look to the rim in anticipation as the ball angles towards the hoop, a slight backspin guiding its trajectory. Then, a soft swoosh echoes through the gym as the ball falls neatly into the net, before thudding against the hardwood floor.
“OK, everybody go shoot some free throws,” shouts Vidakovich, with not even a tinge of surprise in his voice.
It’s just another day of practice at Eagle Valley and the Sandoval girls are at it again, as usual.
It’s almost like a sixth sense between the two cousins, an uncanny feel for one another that has translated into offensive success for the Devils this season.
On Friday, when Eagle Valley (11-11) heads to Faith Christian (19-4) for the first round of the 32-team 3A state tournament, undoubtedly Vidakovich will look for production from both of his stellar guards – each better than the other at something.
Senior Trista is the tenacious one, a feisty slasher who isn’t afraid to trade bruises underneath for rebounds or to pick up a trip to get to the foul line. Diving for balls and directing traffic are two of the senior point guard’s intangibles.
Sophomore Rachel is a little more quiet, a little less scrappy, but a more dangerous offensive weapon when left open. She is also a little more fleet-footed on defense and clutch from the free-throw line.
“She’s a better penetrator. I’m a better outside shooter,” says Rachel after practice Wednesday, shrugging.
Adds Trista, “I think we both have our own separate things. She plays good defense. I usually play down low because I usually rebound. She’s quicker outside. She’s better with her hands and quicker with her feet. I’m more physical.”
Anything you can do …
The on court competitiveness is actually a carry-over from the off the court competitiveness between the two. Actually, it’s a miracle if the two ever call a timeout from trying to outdo each other, although neither mentioned trying to have better dreams when they went to sleep every night.
When it comes to winning, it doesn’t matter if it’s shooting free throws or picking the best outfit for school that day – both want to beat the other at their own game.
They both joke about it in-between shots or in-between classes, cracking on one another about a lazy follow through or a bad shirt; incessantly playing a game that doesn’t have quarters or fouls, just an understood set of bloodline rules.
“In practice when we are practicing man (defense), we usually pick each other,” Trista says. “It makes me want to work harder because it’s a competition thing. If I start working harder against her, she’s going to work harder against me.”
“We get a lot more aggressive with each other,” says Rachel butting in. “Pushy sometimes.”
“Yeah,” Trista says. “It makes us better ball players.”
The only sad thing about this cousin act is the possibility that this weekend’s game against a strong Faith Christian team on the Eagles’ home floor could be the last time that both Sandovals take the floor for the black, white and red.
It’s something that neither wants to think about, although Trista addresses the question anyway.
“I know I’m going to miss her next year,” Trista says. “It’s going to be really hard leaving my team. Being a senior, my job is to get the team pumped, so we can beat Faith Christian. I know we have a very good chance to keep going. We’re so talented. We just need to put it all together. It’s there. We just need to do it.”
If the Devils advance past the seventh-seeded Eagles, they will either face Pagosa Springs (16-6) or St. Mary’s Academy (13-10).
This Wednesday, though, neither is thinking too much about the Eagles or a Cinderella run at state. They are too fixated on who shot free throws better at the end of practice, or as Trista points out, who shot them better on Tuesday.
“I shot 17 out of 20,” says Rachel, beaming as she turns towards Trista.
“I only shot 11 today,” says Trista, pausing for a second as she lets her younger cousin gloat before firing back.
“Yesterday I was on fire, though,” she says. “Yesterday, I was the best.”
Nate Peterson is at 949-0555 ext. 608 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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