With Six-Foot Sisters, Columbia Falls Eyes State

By Beacon Staff

COLUMBIA FALLS – The DeWit sisters finish each other’s sentences and analyze each other’s game. Kelsey insists that Kayla is quicker, while Kayla points out that her older sister has better post moves. And they both agree on this: Kelsey is still a little taller.

“I’m 6-1 and she’s closer to 6 feet,” Kelsey, a junior at Columbia Falls, said.

This is the front line opposing teams have to face when they play the Wildkats: two skilled players over 6-feet tall who have played together nearly their entire lives. With Kelsey anchoring the post and Kayla, a sophomore, playing forward, the Wildkats are frontrunners to win the Northwestern A girls basketball crown this year.

This past summer, Kelsey and Kayla trained incessantly together, attending every available open gym and spending long hours in The Wave in Whitefish. They worked on basic skills like shooting, of course, but they also invented drills based on theoretical game situations. If the defense is guarding Kelsey a certain way, where can Kayla expect her sister to move to on the court? What would her sister think in this instance?

Essentially, they want to be so in tune with each other and the game’s rhythm that they don’t even need to look to see where the other is. They already know.

“We can tell what each other’s thinking,” Kelsey said.

Kelsey is coming off a strong sophomore season in which she earned all-conference honors. She averaged 10.7 points per game and 9.1 rebounds, tops in Northwestern A. Kayla saw some varsity action last year as a freshman, but in essence this is the first time the sisters have played competitively together at the high school level.

This year, both DeWits are in the top 10 in the conference in scoring and top five in rebounding. Kayla is averaging 11.8 points and 10 rebounds, while Kelsey averages 10.5 points and 8.5 rebounds. Kelsey also leads the conference in blocks with 2.3 per game. As a team, the Wildkats lead the conference in rebounds by a large margin, grabbing 39 boards per game. The next closest team, Libby, hauls in fewer than 30.

The DeWits’ defensive presence is always apparent, if not intimidating for opponents. But their offensive prowess can’t be ignored either. In a loss earlier this season to Missoula Sentinel, Kelsey finished with a game-high 20 points, while Kayla chipped in 14 for the Wildkats, who are 1-4 on the year, with three of their games coming against Class AA teams. The conference schedule begins this Friday against Libby.

“We want to get better,” Kelsey said. “You can get better no matter who you are.”

Alyssa Ladenburg, a senior guard who leads the conference in assists, provides a nice outside complement to the inside dominance of the DeWits. Ladenburg and the DeWits combine to score 31 of the Wildkats’ 47.5 points per game. Thus far, the DeWits are living up to their goal “to be dominant,” as Kelsey puts it.

“We want to go to state and I think we will,” Kelsey said.

Sports observers talk about intangibles such as “team chemistry” to the point that the sentiment becomes cliché. But with the DeWits, there is a genuine and unmistakable cohesiveness, prompted by birth and honed by a tight-knit sisterhood. Off the court, they are close friends.

Kayla is the brasher of the two. As Kelsey describes it: “She’ll meet anyone; she’ll talk to anyone.” Kelsey likes to kick back with a good book, but Kayla views the practice with a bit of disdain: “I definitely don’t enjoy reading.” She prefers daydreaming in her free time, she said.

An example of the girls’ personality differences can be found in their views on not having a cell phone – their mother doesn’t want them to have one. While Kelsey quietly explains that she thinks a cell phone would be advantageous in this modern world, Kayla speaks of it as her birthright, though she does so jovially.

“When we go somewhere (our mom) says, ‘Bring warm clothes,’” Kayla said. “I’m like, ‘Give us a phone. We’re teenagers. We need a phone.’”

“But our friends try to hook us up,” she added.

Sisterly squabbles arise, as they do in any family. But for as much time as the girls spend together – at practice, school, home and traveling – bickering is a surprisingly rare occurrence, they say. They’ve come along way since junior high, when Kayla said “we were immature and weird.” They’re fine as long as they don’t play one-on-one.

“It’s a sister thing – you just fight when you guard each other,” Kayla said.

Given their family tree, it’s not surprising the DeWits are the tallest players in the conference, save for a couple of other 6-footers such as Libby’s Jackie Mee. Their mother is 5 feet 11, while their biological father is 6-2, their uncle is 6-5 and both grandfathers are 6-5.

Both girls want to play college basketball, but they still have this season and next together before Kelsey will be faced with that decision. Kayla’s not ready for her older sister to go anywhere.

“It’s more of a friendship than a sister thing,” Kayla said. “It will definitely be weird when she’s gone. It will be like, ‘Whoa, what happened?’”