NISKAYUNA — As is the case every season, plenty of brothers, sisters and cousins will team up on area high school basketball teams during the 2017-18 campaign.
A quick look at the roster for the Niskayuna girls’ basketball team seems to suggest one of those situations.
There’s senior Olivia Owens, the team’s 6-foot-4 star, who has already committed to play her college basketball for the University of Maryland.
Then, there’s sophomore Ivy Owens, a 5-foot-3 guard set to make her varsity debut Friday when the Silver Warriors play Columbia in a season-opening tournament at Averill Park.
The two Owens girls, though, are not sisters.
“And everyone thinks we’re cousins,” Olivia Owens said Monday at her team’s practice. “So, every now and then, we need to clarify that we’re not.”
“Yeah,” Ivy Owens said, “Olivia’s my aunt.”
So, yeah, Niskayuna’s pick-and-roll duo is a bit unique.
“And they feed off each other so well,” Niskayuna head coach Sarah Neely said.
Neely was one who, at first, just figured Ivy Owens and Olivia Owens were cousins. The coach knew the two girls were not sisters, but they were obviously close. Last season, when the school’s junior varsity and varsity teams took bus rides together for road trips, Neely noticed her star player typically sat with the then-freshman member of the team’s JV.
“I just thought that was the neatest thing,” Neely said. “They have a neat dynamic to them.”
Olivia Owens’ oldest brother has a couple decades on her, and he’s Ivy Owens’ father. The two girls grew up hanging out together, first in Albany before each moved to Niskayuna several years ago.
“Me and Ivy, we grew up together,” Olivia Owens said. “We always did everything together.”
Olivia Owens is two years older than Ivy Owens — the two girls both have December birthdays, separated by a little more than a week — and they grew up as peers, watching movies and playing basketball together.
“We’ve always been close like that,” said Ivy Owens, whose family now lives down the street from her aunt’s.
But besides some time playing AAU basketball together when they were younger, Ivy Owens and Olivia Owens have never played together on an organized team. That makes this season a special one for them.
“We’re still getting our chemistry together,” Olivia Owens said, “but Ivy’s been playing very well.”
In general, Neely is excited about her team’s prospects this season. Olivia Owens averaged 20.6 points and 12.3 rebounds last season, and Ivy Owens is part of the team’s talented sophomore quartet — also including Natalie Prian, Emma Souky and Kate St. Lucia — that led the school’s JV to a 19-1 record last season.
“We still have a lot of work to do, we have to tweak some things,” Neely said. “But we’re excited about the potential, for sure.”
While Olivia Owens’ role is set as the team’s go-to scorer, Neely said Ivy Owens has a chance to start as the team’s point guard — just don’t expect Ivy Owens to call for a pick from her teammate with a shout of “Aunt Olivia.”
“I call her Olivia — or just Liv,” Ivy Owens said.
Olivia Owens appreciates that. The senior laughed at the idea her niece would ever refer to her as “Aunt Olivia.”
“She’s more like a sister than a niece to me, anyways,” Olivia Owens said. “Everything we do, we do it together. I guess we’re more like best friends, actually.”