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Collins sisters shining side-by-side at River Hill

BasketballUnited States Naval Academy

She's known for an accurate jumper, a knack for wrangling rebounds away from taller girls, and a coach-like presence on the court. So what's the toughest part about defending River Hill's best player?

Perhaps it's the fact that there are two of them.

Seniors Jenna and Julia Collins, four-year starters for coach Teresa Waters' girls basketball program, consistently show up on scouting reports for opposing teams. The identical twins share similar characteristics on and off the court, though a few differences exist.

One thing that Waters said remains constant is their appetite for the game.

"The girls on our team respect them, and look up to their style of play," said Waters, whose Hawks play a sectional quarterfinal game Wednesday night at 7:30 at Reservoir. "They respect the work ethic, and are oftentimes in awe of some of the things they are capable of doing. They love their unwavering competitive edge."

Over the last four years, River Hill has seen its share of success on the basketball court. Twice losing in the state championship game, the Hawks have been a perennial force in Maryland. The Collins girls have been a major reason why.

After losing much of last year's roster — including Howard County Times Player of the Year Megan Sterling — the Collins sisters relished the opportunity to serve as leaders in their senior season. Though the team's efforts did not yield another county championship, solid performances in every contest kept the Hawks in contention until the end.

Waters described the girls' playing styles as being "cut from the same cloth," but their positions have changed over the course of their careers.

"As a freshman, I was scared to look to score," said Jenna Collins. "I was more of a defensive player. But, as the years passed, I got more confident with the ball. That was the major difference. We lost some of our go-to players, and I just knew that I had to step up in order for us to succeed."

Collins doesn't mind contact, and has found success playing in the post. Her sister, Julia, who played point guard during her sophomore and junior seasons, prefers to score from the perimeter.

Despite patrolling different areas of the floor, their numbers are similar.

Heading into the Hawks' playoff game against Reservoir, Julia Collins is averaging 12.2 points, a team-high 10.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 3.2 steals.

Jenna is averaging 16.4 points, 2.4 assists and 3.4 steals.

Whether they are fighting for a state championship, or playing a friendly game of one-on-one in the family driveway, Julia said the sisters want to win.

"As twins, we always compete, especially with each other," she said. "We are always going to take everything seriously."

Waters stays away from having the two go at it in practice. "It gets too competitive," she said.

Their on-court demeanor is not the same.

Jenna is more outspoken, often wearing her emotions on her sleeve. Julia is more the calming influence in times of adversity.

It's that balance that makes them complete.

"Every practice, they are leading. They're instructing, and yet they are coachable," Waters said. "Making their teammates better means that we're better. It's never a 'Jenna and Julia' thing. They understand it's not just about them. It's about everybody."

Their intense rivalry with each other doesn't seem to affect their relationship, because the two appear as close as one would expect twins to be.

In her final regular-season game, Jenna recorded her 1,000th career point. Julia called it an "amazing achievement."

Knowing they had a chance to take their collegiate pursuits elsewhere to explore their lives as individuals, the prospect of being apart was unappealing. In the fall, the two will enroll at the Naval Academy to play another sport at which they excell — lacrosse.

Like always, they will be sticking together.

"I love being looked at as a pair," Julia said. "We're twins. It's like we're a little team."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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