About the only mishap between Newtown sisters Cailin and Cyleigh Wilson came at a very young age. During an elementary school basketball game Cailin bent over and tied her shoes ahead of a defensive possession.
Only problem was the other was running right in her path, and Cyleigh careened to the hardwood.
Other than that it’s been smooth sailing for the now Nighthawks stalwarts, especially over the last year and-a-half. The duo are two key pieces of Newtown’s 10-2 start to the season; the No. 6 ranked team in the GameTimeCT/Register Top 10 poll also went 17-3 a year ago with the Wilsons being components.
Cailin, a senior, and Cyleigh, a junior, are more similar on the court than off it.
“They’re very different and it’s funny because Cailin is very quiet with everything and goes about her business, and does all the little things well to help us win,” said Nighthawks coach Jeremy O’Connell. “Cyleigh comes out, sets the tone and gets everyone calmed down. We would not be as successful as we are without either of them.”
It’s no coincidence that hoops was their path. The Wilsons moved from Indiana — a place where they know a thing or two about the sport — in second and third grade respectively. Both parents played in high school, too, before attending Purdue University. Cyleigh and Cailin were dribbling a ball as soon as they could walk.
“Both my parents played in high school and were going to pursue it in college,” Cyleigh said. “Watching them pursue something they loved made me want to do the same thing.”
The sisters are part of a rotation that goes to the end of the bench for Newtown, one that has overwhelmed opponents so far this winter. Both are guards who shoot the ball from distance; Cyleigh has increased her role as facilitator due to the graduation of All-SWC point guard Rylee Mulligan.
“It’s a good team atmosphere,” said Cyleigh, an All-Colonial selection last year. “Everyone’s there to pick you up; no one is against each other. Everyone steps up on a different night; everyone has their time and we all support together. We all are in it to win.”
The pair have played on most youth and travel teams together, a time that will end following this season. Both plan on playing the sport in college.
“I can’t put into words how much I’ve loved playing with my older sister,” Cyleigh said.
“It’s so much fun; we know each other so well and to be able to see each other succeed is amazing,” Cailin said.
As far as twins go, there couldn’t be better role models on and off the court than Rebecca and Rachel Gartner. A middle-school aged Susana and Sabrina Almeida watched from in close as the pair delivered Danbury three consecutive FCIAC titles from 2012-14.
The Gartners left a permanent impact on the impressionable duo. Four years later and the now-seniors are trying to close their careers on as high a note as possible.
“When we were younger all we wanted to do was play here and follow what they do,” said Susanna, who is younger by two minutes. “That carried us when we went to high school because we wanted to be good and wanted to push our teammates. I don’t think it was about them winning, it was about making everyone around you better and developing as a player.”
Sabrina wears No. 4 and Susana No. 14; the pair were born April 14.
The Almeidas have helped spark Danbury to nine straight wins after an 0-3 start, well on their way to surpassing last year’s win total of 10. The Hatters are third in the FCIAC and have hopes of cutting down the nets themselves.
“I’ve known them since they were in second grade, they came out and played for us,” said Hatters coach Jackie DiNardo, referencing to the town’s PAL program she helped launch. “From middle school they watched the Gartner twins and it was like ‘I wanted to be like Mike.’ They were the role models.”
Like the Gartners, each has their own style of play and personality. Susanna is the sharpshooting point guard who facilities the offense while Sabrina can also knock down the 3-pointer and plays lock-down defense.
They compliment each other off the court, too.
“She likes math and I struggle in AP (statistics), so she’ll help me with that,” Susanna said. “You always have a study buddy; math and science are like offense and defense. I want to be good on offense because she’s a great defensive player.”
Susanna stepped into Rachel’s shoes two years later as a freshman and has made the point guard position her own since becoming a full-time starter as a sophomore. Sabrina bided her time and was a full-time starter last season.
“I came in determined to make varsity but I never thought I’d start,” said Susana, who was named second-team All-FCIAC last year. “I think I earned a lot of respect from teammates as a freshman.”
And as far as being able to tell the twins apart.
“You can tell,” DiNardo joked. “If you look at their face; Susanna has a little more of a baby face. I literally have to look at one; it took me a while, but I figured it out.”
After spending their whole lives playing on the court, the two may head in separate directions after Hatters colors.
“They’re both looking to play in college; Susana has some respectable people looking at her and Sabrina does too,” said DiNardo, who is on 497 career wins after a win over St. Joseph Thursday. “They’re looking at not necessarily going to (college) together; I think that gave them a little strength that they have to do their own thing.”