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Siblings Carly (left) and Sara (right) Wilson have had the unique opportunity to participate in athletics as teammates while growing up in Big Sky. PHOTO COURTESY OF VANESSA WILSON

The Wilson sisters reflect on their bond on and off the field of play

By Brandon Walker

BIG SKY – The Wilson sisters, Sara, 17, and Carly, 16, both ready themselves for the Lady Big Horns contest versus Shields Valley. Sara is forced to watch the game from the sidelines due to a previously sustained injury that continues to hold her out of action, meanwhile Carly will soon step on the court for a game she and her sister won’t soon forget. 

The game on the evening of Jan. 31, 2020 pits the Lone Peak High School varsity girls basketball team against the visiting Rebels in the latter stages of the 2019-2020 basketball season. Much to the delight of the hometown crowd, the game is closely contested throughout the first three quarters of play and even late into the fourth. 

As the seconds wind down in the final quarter, Carly, or “Car” as she’s referred to by her teammates, finds herself streaking down the court on a breakaway, closely trailed by a Rebel defender. The air is thick with tension—the Lady Big Horns are down by only one point. If Carly executes the layup, they’ll have a shot at winning the game.

With roughly eight seconds to play Carly gathers the outlet pass and calmly avoids the defender as she lays the ball into the basket, giving LPHS a one point lead of their own and sending the Lady Big Horn faithful into a frenzy. Lone Peak went on to win the game following a defensive stop on the ensuing possession. 

“I think we … won [at] the last second because one of our teammates had a block and she had an amazing layup right at the end which won the game for us and just after that game I was so happy and proud,” Sara said, offering kudos to her little sister. 

Growing up in the community of Big Sky, Sara and Carly have shared the soccer field and basketball court together many times, creating memories like this one along the way. 

“We have a lot of memories from playing together and I think we’ve gotten really close because of sports, because … so much time is spent on the field [together],” Sara said.

Their experience as teammates is not one that all siblings have the opportunity to share as uncontrollable factors, such as age disparities and school size, may sometimes prevent this opportunity from becoming a reality.

“I’d say because Carly and I are sisters we have pretty good chemistry together,” Sara said. “So like, we can usually find each other on the field in both sports and kind of rely on each other.”

This testament is echoed by their mother, Vanessa Wilson: “They can find each other really well it seems like,” she said. “They’re aware of where each other is at and what strengths they have. I think they kind of know how to utilize that.” 

While participating in any athletic endeavor with a family member can be a memorable experience, it is not without its challenges, according to Vanessa. “I think the more you’re with anyone, the more you realize you have to figure out how to keep the relationship going because sports does put a lot of strain on a relationship,” she said.

The Wilson sisters, Sara (left) and Carly (right), pictured in their Lone Peak High School soccer uniforms. PHOTO COURTESY OF VANESSA WILSON

Vanessa tried to guide the siblings toward different athletic activities during their childhood, in hopes of avoiding sibling conflicts. But ultimately, Sara and Carly shared an unwavering passion for soccer and basketball.

“… As a mom you know you worry that one would always be really good and the other one would always be in the shadow, but honestly they kind of take turns,” Vanessa said. “One will have a great game, the other one won’t and then the next time, Carly will have a great game and Sara won’t, so, it’s worked out pretty well.”

Even when they weren’t wearing the same uniform, Carly remembers eagerly wanting to. As a fourth grader, she recalls experiencing the excitement from the stands as Sara’s fifth grade basketball team participated in a tournament.

“I remember they went really far in that tournament and got a trophy,” she said. “… I was there along [for] the entire thing and I just could not wait to play the next year, like it was such torture for me to go everywhere with my sister and watch them play and not be able to play with them.”

While their favorite sports vary—Sara prefers soccer and Carly favors basketball—they both agree that they turn their competitiveness up a notch when competing against each other in a practice setting.

As basketball season begins, Carly reflected on a play that was named after her and her sister from last basketball season: “So they had this cut that we’d go in and pop out and grab the ball and they called it the “Wilson sister cut” because they wanted us both to do it,” she said. “I just thought that was funny and that was what it was called the rest of the year.”

The Wilson sisters, who also have a younger brother, enjoy riding together to and from practices and games and more importantly their relationship as siblings affords them the ability to openly reflect and share thoughts with one another. 

“… At the end of each game, and practice, we talk about what happened and we can be pretty honest and we can be brutal to each other,” Sara said. “Like, ‘how did I play,’ you know, and Carly will tell me what she honestly thinks and I think that that would be weird to not have next year.”

Vanessa compares Sara and Carly’s relationship to that of twins, typically referring to them in tandem as “the girls” and remarking that they even sometimes receive the same Christmas gifts and open them simultaneously. She described Carly as more competitive while Sara is more relaxed, producing a sort of yin and yang balance.  

“… They’ve had their sibling rivalries but … they’ve always just found a playmate in each other or just [a] friend or somebody to hang out with,” Vanessa said.

The sisters’ bond runs much deeper than simply that of teammates on an athletic field. Sara and Carly carve out a day each week to eat their lunch together and even participate in the same school clubs such as National Honor Society, Interact club, band and performing arts. 

At home they enjoy watching television shows with each other, including “The Bachelor” and spending time with one another while in the company of friends. But while they share a large portion of their daily routines, the pair also find time for themselves, according to their mom.

Sara is now a senior at LPHS and beginning her final school sponsored athletics season alongside her younger sister. She plans to attend Northern Arizona University in the fall and recognizes it will be an adjustment from what she’s accustomed to. 

“It’s not just my sister, I’ve got a close bond with my family and even just school and my friends,” she said. “So I’m going to be probably pretty upset the first semester, missing home.” The pair both nodded in agreement when asked if they plan to visit each other when Sara leaves in the fall. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, Carly, a junior, is hopeful that her sister will get the opportunity to participate in her final basketball season. The 2020-2021 basketball season may be the parting act for the “Wilson sister cut,” but the girls will always have their memories as teammates to reflect on and a bond that will last a lifetime.

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