YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – There is a special bond between siblings, and the ITCL has several combinations of sisters and brothers involved with basketball teams in the league.
It’s not uncommon for small town communities to have siblings or even whole families involved in sports. And this year, the league has eight siblings involved at the varsity level either playing or coaching basketball.
Two sets of those siblings have the unique distinction of playing alongside a twin. Those include Ashley and Kaitlyn Totani from Jackson-Milton, and Dan and Anthony Ritter from South Range. The third set of twins is a little more novel in that Hannah Breedlove plays for the Mineral Ridge girls team while twin brother Daniel is a standout on the boy’s squad.
The theory that twins think alike may lead some to assume that they have a bit of an advantage on the court, but according to both the Totani’s and Ritter’s, it has a lot more to do with playing basketball together for many years, not any genealogical connection.
“That theory is out there,” Ashley said with a chuckle. “I think because we have played together for so long, and when we practice we’re working with each other so we know how each other plays, our strengths, and our weaknesses.”
“Sometimes that’s true. That’s kind of true with some things. But not that much (with basketball). I mean we have been playing together so it’s easy to know where he’s at and what we need to do on the court,” Dan Ritter added.
“We’ve been playing together for so long we just know when to get each other the ball and know where we’re going to be on each play. So we know where each other are going to be,” Anthony added.
They also admitted that on the flip side, competitiveness with each other helps them to stimulate their effort on the court. All of this while also recognizing the different strengths they have.
“Yeah, we have our competitiveness like when we play one-on-one. We have our different skills, we know who’s better than who, but we try to be better than each other,” Anthony said.
“We are very competitive like when we’re practicing and all,” Kaitlyn confirmed. “But we cheer each other on. I say ‘good job’ when she (Ashley) scores a lot, she says a good job to me too.”
All agreed that their siblings are a great source to help them with their game. Talking to each other to get tips, or helping them on what they can do to improve.
“For the longest time, I wasn’t a big scorer, I was a big defensive player and she (Kaitlyn) was a scorer so we have been trying to equal out our playing and we have done that,” Ashley said.
“She always asks me what am I doing wrong with my shot,” Kaitlyn said. “We help each other out in that way.”
“We definitely help each other out,” Dan confirmed. “When there is something that I do a little better or he does a little better than me, he will help me with what I need to work on. I’ll help him with what he needs to work on.”
Both sets of twins have been influential in propelling their teams to outstanding season’s as both the Blue Jays and Raiders are number one seeds in the upcoming tournament for the girls and boys. Not to mention they both won ITCL titles this year.
For Hannah and Daniel, both have excelled as three-point shooters for the Rams. Daniel has tied the school mark for three-pointers with eight, while Hannah has participated in the Frank Bubba three point shoot out classic.
Other siblings participating in the league include Colin and Justin Sweeney from Lisbon, Cody and Kade Hillis from Western Reserve, Erica and Cole DeZee from Western Reserve, and Alexis and Logan Bell of Lisbon.
Several siblings also echoed the same statements regarding helping each other, trying to make their respective teams the best they can be. All while also having a competitive relationship with one another.
“When were at home we talk about the games, shooting mostly because we are both working on our shots a lot because we’re both shooting guards. So it’s a constant topic we have at our house,” Western Reserve’s sophomore Erica DeZee said about her relationship with older brother Cole.
“We give each other input on how each other played. We talk to each other all the time, trying to give each other advice and stuff,” Cole added.
Both Cole and Kade Hillis also pointed out how important older siblings have been to them. Giving them credit for the reason why they have been so successful both on and off the court.
“I wouldn’t be the player I am today without him,” Cole said of older brother Lance who graduated last year. “If my shot is not falling, or if I’m doing something wrong, I always look to them (Erica and Lance) to get advice to fix it.”
“He’s a great guy on the floor and off to me,” Kade said of older brother Cody. “He’s a leader I will look up to for my entire life.”
But it’s not only on the court where a sibling connection can be found in the league. At Southern Local brothers Aaron and Ethan Blatch coach the boys and girls varsity programs. Aaron took over the Indians boys program in 2015 while Ethan took over the girls program just last year.
As the basketball season draws to it’s conclusion, several of these siblings will get their final opportunities to either play together or watch each other on the court. Whatever the case, they will all reflect on the times they participated in athletics together with fond memories.