FOREST CITY | Senior Kelly Leerar lobbed a three, then sophomore Amanda Chizek followed up with a drive to the basket. Chizek was sent to the line for one free throw, and she made it.
That’s how No. 7 (1A) West Hancock took the lead in the fourth quarter over Forest City, 46-45.
Freshman Rachel Leerar built off that energy, driving to the basket to extend the lead and, eventually, the Indians would fall victim, 61-53.
Rachel emerged as the second-top scorer in the game against Forest City with 12 points to Kelly’s 13. Chizek scored 11 points.
The two sisters are three years apart, but on the court, they’re equals. Even as the older sister, Kelly has leaned on Rachel this past year.
Kelly collided with an opponent last season, tearing her left ACL, but she was cleared just in time to play this season.
“Our first basketball game back was the day after I got cleared to play,” Kelly said. “It was close, but I’m good now.”
The West Hancock girls are now seven games deep into the season. Rachel leads the team with 19.7 points per game, while Kelly stands in third with 11.2 points per game. Kelly led the team last year with 18.1 points per game, but she’s just getting her confidence back, so Rachel has helped carry the load.
“She’s pretty well back right now and she can pull back to keep her off because she may be hurting,” Rachel said. “And I try to keep her healthy, so if she needed something blown off I’ll handle the ball.”
It’s one of the reasons Rachel is so aggressive on the court. She sprints throughout the entire game, covering Forest City’s Hannah Anderson on defense, and drives to the basket for a layup on offense.
“I like to run and gun. We score more off fast-breaks, my sister just throws it up,” Rachel said. “And on defense, I like to take the quicker ones and keep up with them. It’s kind of the only way to play for me.”
Rachel says she’s just in her comfort zone at this level, it’s all basketball to her.
“Rachel, she’s playing very well as a freshman, really don’t hesitate putting the ball in her hands except at the end of the night she still has a lot to learn. Which is why I want the ball in Kelly’s hands, she’s a senior,” head coach Paul Sonius said. “She drove to the hoop to make them get in foul trouble. Would like to see her hit some more threes, but she’s doing very well right now.”
Kelly has been more hesitant to drive to the basket, capitalizing on her perimeter-shooting with a team-high of 12 3-pointers so far this season. But she’s gaining her confidence back with Rachel’s encouragement.
“I got injured by getting hit; it’s always been in the back of my mind that I don’t want to get hit because I don’t want to get injured,” Kelly said. “She’s probably been one of the No. 1 people to push me back to where I am now. She’ll just, if we’re in the middle of the game, she’ll come up to me and tell me to calm down it’s OK or we’ll go to the gym after school late nights and we’ll go work in there one-on-one and she’ll help me”
The two are better when they’re together. Rachel played up in age on the court with Kelly when she was younger, but had to wait the past three years of high school basketball to reunite.
“She’s worked a lot at it, she’s been playing basketball for 6 years now, she loves basketball, she just has the knowledge about the game,” Kelly said. “It’s great, we know each other so well that we work together really well and other girls on the team know me really well because we’ve played together and Rachel just fit right in.”