Sisters team up — or in one case, square off — on A-K Valley hardwood

Wednesday, February 24, 2021 | 6:38 PM

When Kalleigh Nerone took the court for her second varsity game Jan. 11, the freshman guard at Highlands found herself going up against a unique opponent.

As the Golden Rams faced Section 1-4A rival Knoch, Nerone matched up for the first time with her step-sister, Knights sophomore standout Nina Shaw.

“I was a little nervous, for sure. I didn’t know what to expect,” Nerone said.

Shaw said she and Nerone know each other’s games so well that it made for good on-court strategy when they finally met.

“It was exciting,” said Shaw, who scored 15 points in the first meeting with Highlands. “We always practice and train together. My dad trains both of us. We are familiar with each other’s moves. We didn’t want to guard each other because we didn’t think our moves would be as efficient as if we were up against someone else. But it was a good experience.”

While sister-versus-sister matchups don’t happen too often, sister combinations on the same team are a staple of Alle-Kiski Valley squads. They provide a unique perspective on the teammate dynamic and provide special moments that last a lifetime.

Sister acts this season can be seen at Fox Chapel with senior Ally and junior Olivia Hager; at Freeport with senior Grace and sophomore Ava Soilis; at Springdale with senior Haley and sophomore Caity Stec; at St. Joseph with senior Ally and freshman Emma Swierczewski; and at Knoch with the triple-play combinations of senior Nevaeh and Naturelle Ewing, junior Mackenzie and sophomore Hattie McGraw and sophomore Lily and freshman Abbey Hawk.

“It’s a special feeling to share the court with your sister and have success together, helping each other out and cheering each other on,” said Ally Swierczewski, who was a freshman when older sister Anna was a senior on the St. Joseph WPIAL Class A quarterfinalist squad in the 2017-18 season.

“There are also times when we get a little frustrated with each other, and it sometimes comes out on the court. But the relationship with Emma through basketball, which I also experienced with Anna, is something that I am really grateful to have.”

Each sister combination will get a chance to build even more memories this season as they battle in the WPIAL playoffs, which start Saturday and run through the weekend of March 12.

“It is great to spend my first year on the high school team with Nevaeh,” Naturelle Ewing said. “She is a great mentor to me. We work out a lot at home, and that translates a lot to the basketball court. My first varsity assist was to her, and that was pretty special. She makes it easier and a lot of fun to play together.”

The Ewing sisters hope to help make their mark as Knoch, the No. 4 seed in the Class 4A bracket, opens the playoffs at home Tuesday against Hopewell.

Freeport takes on Mt. Pleasant in the Class 4A first round, and the Soilis sisters, as fellow starters for the No. 6 seed Yellowjackets, will be right in the mix.

Ava Soilis produced a career-best 20 points in a win over Highlands on Jan. 24, and Grace tallied 12 to help Freeport beat Burrell on Jan. 28.

“When Ava puts her mind to something and goes after it, it is fun to watch,” Grace Soilis said. “Ava is my teammate and, of course, my sister, but she’s also my best friend. I don’t know what I would do without her support on and off the court. These last couple of years have been pretty special.”

The next couple of seasons figure to be special for Shaw and Nerone as well. They’ll be squaring off for two more years.

“It’s nice to watch (Kalleigh) play and do so well as a freshman,” Shaw said. “You can tell she is going places.”

Shaw and the Knights got the better of Nerone and the Golden Rams both times the teams met this season, including a 51-30 result Feb. 4.

“The second game was more relaxed. It wasn’t as nerve-wracking,” said Nerone, who has several double-digit scoring efforts this season including 17 against Freeport on Feb. 8. “It was fun to play against Nina. We talked a lot about the games, so there were no hard feelings afterwards.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .

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