Gilbert senior guards and identical twins Hanna Cavinder and Haley Cavinder talk training each other in basketball, having similar statistics and personality traits.
Dana Scott, azcentral sports
Gilbert has a pair of players that are tough to beat. They’re also tough to tell apart.
Identical twins Haley and Hanna Cavinder are leading Gilbert in almost every offensive and defensive category.
“We train together,” Hanna said. “It’s not like one is outworking or loves the game more than the other. We both love it and put in the same amount of work. That shows why we’re so close in stats and assists or whatever. When I’m hooping, she’s hooping.”
The Fresno State-commits, 17, are having a strong senior season for Gilbert (12-5), which is among the top four teams in the 5A conference.
Both are among the Tigers’ and conference’s leaders in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, field goals, 3-pointers and free throws made.
Hanna is averaging 19.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.9 steals per game. Haley has nearly matched her sister’s stat line posting 21.8 points, 9.0 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 2.6 steals per contest.
“They are so competitive with each other, training against each other everyday that they’ll try and outperform each other, too,” Gilbert head coach Kyle Pedersen said. “It’s not a big surprise that their similarities on the court and their stats are so close.”
The Cavinders began their unremitting love for sports when they were six years old. They applied their inseparability as sisters and best friends to the basketball court as they entered junior high school.
“We tried out for every single sport when we were younger,” Haley said. “We like soccer and volleyball a lot, too. But then as junior high approached, we both decided to just stick with basketball and loved it.”
“It just stuck out to us the most out of every other sport.” Hanna concurred. “It was where we felt the most comfortable and that we could to the most in.”
Pedersen noticed the sisters’ remarkable basketball talents exceeded that of their peers around the same time period.
“We first saw them for our club Arizona Elite tryouts in sixth grade,” Pedersen said. “They were doing Euro-steps and spin moves on all these girls and I told my dad who is president of the club coaching the top team, ‘We need to get them on the senior division court with the 15 and 17-year-olds.’
“And they were playing great up there, too, so we knew we had something special. I’ve been coaching and helping them out ever since.”
Modeling their games after Dallas Wings point guard and perennial WNBA All-Star Skylar Diggans-Smith, the Cavinders aggressively penetrate the lane to score at will and rack up assists with their exceptional court vision.
They’re defensive nuisances possessing speed and quickness to get steals in passing lanes and strip opponents. Also, their physicality, at 5-foot-6, helps them to effectively gets second chance offensive points and push the ball up the floor for the Tigers’ up-tempo style offense.
“They are two of our top defenders, and from the stats you’ll see that they are two of the most aggressive rebounding guards out there attacking,” Pedersen said. “They just want to get the ball and run, very physical on the boards.”
The twins are the tone-setters for an explosive Tigers offense and defense, who can run their opponents off the floor.
Gilbert beat Queen Creek Casteel by 66 points on Tuesday. But they’ve also had dominating victories over GIlbert Williams Field (52), Tucson Ironwood Ridge (51), Phoenix Central (74) and Phoenix Sunnyslope (54). They also crushed Laveen Fairfax 96-2 in December.
“We only graduated one senior, and we’ve been playing for two years together as a team,” Haley said. “Everyone knows what it takes to win, whether they need a scorer or if Brynn (Wade) needs like 20-plus rebounds for us to win.”
The biggest competition for the Cavinders is Goodyear Millennium (12-4), which handed Gilbert one of their losses 50-44 on Dec. 14.
Millennium held Hanna Cavinder to a season-low 4 points on 1-of-7 shooting, and Haley picked up the scoring load with 26. However, the Millennium defense caused 12 turnovers between the Cavinder sisters.
“That’s a team that we definitely going to face during state down the road in the playoffs in February,” Hanna said. “Playing them earlier on in the season, we’re just going to benefit from it. We proved we can hang with them and we can win.”
The Cavinders are interchangeable as point and shooting guards, but they dominate in their own right every game, which means opposing defenses have to find a way to stop two players, not just one.
“She’s my biggest competitor but also my biggest supporter, so if she’s killing it out there then I’m like ‘Dang, I ought to start killing it out,'” Haley said. “I think it’s just that we push each other to a different level that a lot of people don’t get. There’s no jealously or anything. We’re for each other no matter what.”