Twins on guard for surging Rifle girls basketball team
For Rifle junior guards Katy and Karly Manuppella, they share a special bond that no one else can claim as theirs. As twins, they’re often on the same wavelength and think alike, which plays a big role in their individual success this season.
However, after years of sharing the floor together in basketball starting in third grade, the two have been split up this year by Rifle Head Coach Kristy Wallner, giving the Lady Bears much more depth and skill off the bench when one is seated.
That alone has spiked the competitive drive between the two girls, which has in turn made Rifle, ranked 16th in the state in 4A, a much better team in the process.
Earlier this season, it was Katy’s time to shine in a big come-from-behind win over Grand Valley on the road. Katy hit 6-of-6 three-pointers in the win, finishing with 19 points to spark a stagnant Rifle offense at that point in the season.
In the very next game, Karly came off the bench against Glenwood on the road and scored six points in the second quarter, kick-starting a struggling Lady Bears offense at that point in the rivalry matchup against the Demons. Coming out after halftime, Katy then stole the show, scoring 12 points in the third quarter in an eventual Rifle win.
“We definitely feed off of each other and push each other,” Katy said.
“It felt good to go in against Glenwood because I didn’t play at Grand Valley,” Karly said. “It was fun to be able to go in there and have success and show her I can play at this level as well.”
As twins, the Manuppella’s look alike, act alike and sound alike, but they’re vastly different on the court. One shoots left handed, while the other shoots right handed. In fact, in the classroom the one who shoots left handed writes with her right hand, while the one who shoots right handed writes with her left hand.
That’s just a small quirk that makes them great together as a whole.
“I feel like playing together makes us closer,” Karly said. “Even though we’re already really close, we go everywhere together, so it just makes everything that much more fun being with her all the time.”
Since the holiday break, Katy has emerged as a go-to scorer for the Lady Bears, easing the load on junior guard Elly Walters, senior forward Samantha Hinkle and junior forward Jessie Pressler. By having more confidence in her shot and her abilities on the floor, Katy has become a floor spacer that teams need to know where she is, which in turn opens up driving lanes for Walters, the paint for Hinkle to operate and the perimeter for Pressler to dial in from long range.
“It’s a lot of fun that we’re all doing well and playing really well as a team,” Katy said. “It’s different having a twin with you, but we always joke that we can confuse the other team because they don’t know which one is out there.”
To start the 2016-17 season, Katy found herself inserted into the starting lineup, filling the defensive perimeter role vacated by Tori Pressler due to graduation. While focusing on the defensive side of the ball, Katy wasn’t asked to do much, but following a tough offensive showing by the Lady Bears at Palisade coming out of the holiday break, it became apparent that Rifle needed another scorer to step up.
That’s where Katy has inserted herself into the game plan, forcing teams to know where she is and account for her, considering she can hit from anywhere around the arc.
That was a big role to step into for the junior, who hadn’t played higher than junior varsity after sitting on the bench in varsity during the 2015-16 season.
“It was tough at first to adjust to,” Katy said. “I hadn’t played above junior varsity, and I wasn’t really even expecting to start, but things started to come naturally to me once I started gaining confidence in myself. “
Leading up to the Grand Valley game, Katy was hesitant to shoot despite having a great shot, but going 6-for-6 and carrying the team offensively in a big road win gave her all the confidence she needed going forward.
“Before that game I was almost afraid to shoot because I didn’t want my teammates being mad at me,” Katy said. “But now they’re telling me to shoot so I do it. That game at Grand Valley really gave me a lot of confidence.”
While Katy seems to be stealing some of the headlines for the Lady Bears, Karly continues to work hard and has answered the call more often than not when sent into the game off the bench by Wallner.
Although there are games where she doesn’t see the floor at all, she’s just as competitive as her sister and has seemingly hit her stride coming out of the holiday break.
“I’ve been coaching these girls since eighth grade, so it’s been really fun to see all their hard work and see them buy into what we’re teaching here,” Wallner said. “For me as a coach, it’s fun to see their sibling rivalry get going as well. They’re certainly twins, but they’re certainly different. They’re great kids and great teammates. But it’s great as a coach to see them push each other, and at times I can use that against them to get them going. I’m glad they take it as a positive though and have fun and compete.”
When on the floor, you can almost always count on Karly somehow finding the ball in her hands, whether its off of a rebound, loose ball or picking the pocket of the player she’s guarding. The junior just has a knack for coming up with the ball.
“I love when Karly is one the floor because she’s just a grinder,” Rifle junior guard — and close friend to the twins — Elly Walters said. “I know that no matter what happens she’s somehow going to come up with the ball. She’s a ball magnet and it’s a lot of fun to play with players like that.”
In fact, on Friday night the twins were inserted into the starting lineup against Moffat County at home, where Katy exploded for 14 points, while Karly added seven and had five rebounds, including a handful of big offensive rebounds for the Lady Bears in a 52-37 win.
Off the floor, Walters is close friends with the girls, yet still has difficulty at times telling the two apart. However, Walters is able to look for certain quirks, like how they wear their hair or how they walk.
“They’re just a lot like me; they’re normal,” Walters said. “They’re drama free and just have fun. We just get along really well, and I really enjoy being around them as much as I can.”
When not working on their games or helping to lead the Lady Bears to wins, the Manuppella twins raise goats year-round and compete in the Garfield County Fair every year, where they routinely win awards.
With just one full year left in their high school careers following this season, the twins have set their sights on medical school, where they hope to become radiologists. Although the twins haven’t acknowledged it together, they don’t plan on splitting up any time soon, especially for medical school.
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