NEW CASTLE — The clock was winding down, both on the game and on the month of June, for the Frankton girls basketball team at the Blue River Shootout Thursday. The Eagles were playing Crawford County, one of the tougher matchups of the two-day event for his team, according to coach Stephan Hamaker.
Without two key players, Frankton found itself down in the second half and in need of a spark.
They got it when junior Ava Gardner buried a 3-pointer from the wing.
Another lift was added from the opposite side when her older sister, senior Addie Gardner, did the same.
Although the Eagles eventually came up short on the scoreboard and finished 5-2 at Blue River, the two sisters will be key components for Hamaker's squad later this year as Frankton looks to continue building on a strong finish to a 13-12 season.
And they will be each other's biggest cheerleaders along the way.
"I think she brings a lot to the team," Ava said of her older sister. "If we need her, she's always there for us."
Addie, a three-year starter for Hamaker, brought scoring to the floor last year, leading the team at 9.5 points per game while Ava added 4.4 off the bench. With four starters returning, Ava could challenge for the starting point guard role vacated by the graduation of Sierra Southard, a four-year starter.
While it is obviously too early to set his lineup, Hamaker says that who starts a game is not nearly as important as who finishes it or who is on the court at crunch time, at whatever point in the game that might be. While Ava has all the skills to play the point, the coach says the energy she brings off the bench could be more valuable than filling a starting role.
"I know a lot of kids covet that starting position, but there are some players that bring a dose of energy," Hamaker said. "We've always like (Ava) in that role. That doesn't mean that's where she'll be again this year. There may be some games where she'll get to start, but there may be other games where she's coming off the bench to give us that splash of energy we need."
Both girls are laser focused on one thing and that is basketball. They play year round, whether it is AAU tournaments, for Frankton during the school year, or games of one-on-one in the family driveway. That may be the one place where a sibling rivalry shows through. The two don't play video games, but can take each other on in some heated front yard competition.
"We used to almost hurt each other," Ava said.
"I don't want to let her beat me," Addie said. "She doesn't do it much."
"That's not true," Ava said, rolling her eyes.
Aside from the front yard rivalry, the Gardner girls have each other's back. The 5-foot-10 Addie and 5-6 Ava know where each other is at all times and respect each other's game. Each has an attribute that the other would like to borrow.
"I wish I was taller and had her length, those arms," Ava said.
"When she shoots, she knocks them down," Addie said. "When she gets on a roll, she's on a roll and I don't really have that. Her confidence is a little better."
For Hamaker, the talent and work ethic is there for both girls, and that's what he likes to see from a coaching perspective.
"The two sisters are really skilled, let's be real honest," Hamaker said. "They play a lot of basketball in season, offseason, they've really committed to getting better. And that's always appreciated when you're the coach."
With similar games and approaches to basketball, it isn't surprising that they both have the same favorite quote, it's just a matter of who gets to say it first.
"'You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take,'" Addie said.
Ava's jaw drops when she hears big sis take her line.
"It's because I say it a lot and she's heard it a lot," the elder Gardner added.