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Area's best are friends off court



Published: Mon, February 17, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Amber Bland and Courtney Davidson fell asleep in an Atlanta airport last summer while waiting to catch an early flight back to Cleveland.

They were sharing a blanket.

"She takes the covers," Davidson, a junior at Ursuline, said.

Apparently, Bland always takes the covers. Hogs the bed, too.

"No I don't," Bland, a junior at Boardman, said.

Then she paused, and her face lit up.

"Oh wait, yeah I do," she said with a laugh. "I sometimes push her off the bed or I push her to the side so she has all the cold air on her."

Believe it or not, the area's two best girls basketball players on the area's two best girls basketball teams have been friends for more than three years.

They played on the same AAU basketball team last summer. They watch each other's high school games. They talk almost every day.

They even tease each other in the newspaper. After some prodding, anyway.

"She always beats on me," Bland said with a laugh. "She's always teasing me and messing with me. Even though I'm about two feet taller, she's tough. She's strong for a little girl."

Court impact

Bland is actually about 9 inches taller and while their styles are different -- Bland is a forward, Davidson a guard -- they have a similar impact on the court.

Both lead teams with state aspirations. Both are their team's leading scorers. Both have been starting since they were freshmen.

"People want us to hate each other," Bland said. "I'm not sure why."

The two will play against each other for the sixth time in their high school careers when the Irish visit Boardman on Saturday.

Incidentally, Davidson has lost the first five meetings.

"It'd be nice to get a win on Saturday," Davidson said. "I hope we get a win. But if we don't, it's not going to change our friendship."

Bland and Davidson met in eighth grade when their fathers started playing basketball together at the YMCA. They didn't really become close until ninth grade when both were freshman phenoms on two of the area's best programs.

"We have a lot in common, not just basketball," said Davidson, last year's Division III district player of the year. "I got to know her and she was able to relate to some of the things I was going through. I can confide in her. It's a real nice relationship."

Among the elite

They played on the same team for the first time this summer in AAU -- "It was a blast," Davidson said -- and despite only practicing three times, their team finished seventh in the nation.

"She's just an all-star passer," said Bland, last year's Division I co-player of the year. "I'd run all the way up the court and she'd just walk across half-court and throw me the ball for an easy lay-up. I'd be out of breath and I'd ask, 'Aren't you tired, because I am.' "

They don't talk about their teams' rivalry off the court. The closest they get is when Davidson teases Bland about Boardman's mascot. Bland returns the favor.

"I tell her, 'You're a Fighting Irish, but you fight like this,' " Bland said, mockingly holding her fists with the palms up.

Boardman won the first meeting this season, 49-37, and the Spartans have won eight straight over the Irish. Bland scored 23 points in that game, while Davidson was held to a career-low two points.

Both teams enter the game with 18-1 records. Both are ranked in the top 10 in the state. The Spartans have already clinched a share of the SVC title. Ursuline has never won an SVC title -- outright or otherwise.

There's a lot on the line, but it's understood that once the game starts, their friendship is on hold.

"It's fun because we know we're both good, and we know we're both going to bring it," Bland said.

Unfortunately for Davidson, Bland has hogged the success.

And the covers.

XJoe Scalzo is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write him at scalzo@vindy.com.




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