COZAD – Sometimes it seems numbers 23 and 24 on the Cozad girls basketball team shadow each other.
One brings the ball down the basketball court; the other is close by for an open pass.
One gets swallowed up into defensive pressure; the other runs up behind her to open up a clear passing lane and thwart the defense.
Like two familiar chess players, they seem to be able to anticipate each other’s moves very well.
The life-long bond of being sisters not only helps them gel as teammates but also helps them grow and push themselves, said senior Kaylea Reyes about playing with her younger sister, Emily.
“If there is a bad practice or bad game, we lean on each other,” Kaylea said. “It helps a lot that we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
Both agreed that they wanted to improve the team’s form and win more games to make a push toward the state tournament.
Asked about the team’s mind set going into games against Gothenburg last week and Lexington this week, Kaylea said the team was feeling pretty confident even though they’ve come up short in recent games.
“We’ve struggled finishing games. If we could find strength and effort to finish, if we play our game we will be fine,” Kaylea said about the team’s last few games, which have ended in losses against Ogallala and North Platte St. Patrick’s.
Emily said the team’s character helps keep it fighting until the very end of the game.
“We don’t have very much height,” Emily said. “We are scrappy; we come up with a lot of turnovers.”
“Our key is to outwork the other team,” Kaylea said. “When we do that, we win.”
“They are the epitome of a gym rat,” head coach Brian Gogan said. “Their love for the game has sparked a love by their teammates. They are very coachable and hardworking, and two of the most positive kids I have ever worked with.”
Gogan said the girls contributed to the team teams in different ways.
“Kaylea is a fearless leader and has a ton of drive and determination. Emily “Emmer” is very relaxed, but extremely competitive,” Gogan said about the different styles of both girls.
With this being their last year playing basketball together at the high school level, Emily said the team would definitely have an absence to fill next year with Kaylea’s departure.
Not only is she the team’s primary ball handler, Kaylea is also one of the biggest scoring options, as a look at the final statistics of the Haymakers score sheet tends to illustrate.
“Next year someone will definitely have to step up to fill Kaylea’s shoes,” Emily said. “I think we can handle it.”
With Kaylea’s departure next year, Gogan said the team would look to Emily to lead more.
“I think that Emily knows the shoes to fill when Kaylea graduates will be immense, but she has known since her freshman year that she is going to have to fill those shoes,” Gogan said.