Twin sisters Kaitlyn (12) and Ashley (11) Totani have the Bluejays dreaming of their first district title
By CHARLES GROVE
Inter-Tri County League teams may have stopped doing double takes now that sisters Kaitlyn and Ashley Totani are in their third season on Jackson-Milton’s varsity basketball team. But with the way the Bluejays are going, teams from outside the Mahoning Valley might start learning about the juniors come tournament time. The identical twins are helping lead the Bluejays to what they hope will be the first district title for Jackson-Milton girls basketball. The Bluejays (18-2) captured their first sectional title last year.
“We lost by one in the district finals last year to Western Reserve in a really tough game,” Ashley said. “This year, we wanted to win the league and get back to the district finals.”
The twins are so identical that not even their points per game differ. Both are averaging 12 points.
And both have worked to fix their weaker areas since that district final loss, making even more similarities.
“[Ashley’s] always been more defensive and I’ve always been more offensive,” Kaitlyn said. “I’ve always been more focused on things like shooting, but this year we’re really starting to even out our playing abilities.”
The Totanis began playing organized sports when they were 6 years old, playing in a basketball league at the YMCA. The girls have tried gymnastics, soccer and softball before settling on volleyball during the fall and basketball throughout the rest of the year,
Both say there’s nothing quite like basketball.
“Sports have always been a big part of our lives,” Kaitlyn said. “Our Dad played baseball at YSU so he’s always been into sports and it’s just always been a big part of our lives.”
There aren’t many difference — one has a slightly wider jaw line that you have to strain your eyes initially to see, and Ashley is left-handed while Kaitlyn is a righty.
Both assured that they haven’t been very successful trying to dupe friends and family into switching identities for amusement.
“They can totally tell us apart,” Ashley said of her friends. “If you’re with us for a long period of time, you can tell us apart. Our close friends will say we don’t look anything alike and say ‘How could anyone mix you guys up?’”
Not even the boyfriends fall for the trick.
“One time, I went upstairs leaving my boyfriend downstairs and Kaitlyn was upstairs,” Ashley said. “I told her to go downstairs instead and talk to him and pretty much immediately he was like, ‘Oh, hey Kaitlyn.’
When the girls do get mixed up, it’s almost an afterthought to both, They answer to each other’s names when mistaken.
“I answer to Kaitlyn because I just don’t care anymore,” Ashley said. “It’s like my nickname.”
Where the girls have been mistaken for includes the moment Ashley found out both her and her sister were going to start varsity their freshmen years.
“My coach came up to me in practice and gave me this huge, long speech about how we were going to start and then he came up to me again later in practice and said, ‘I already told your sister this but...’ and I had to listen to the long speech all over again.” Despite mix-ups, both say they wouldn’t trade being identical twins for anything.
“Everything’s perfect,” Kaitlyn said. “We get along fine and you always have a best friend.”
Perfection doesn’t go without a bit of sibling rivalries though. Kaitlyn’s claim to fame is being three minutes older while Ashley claims she’s just a hair taller.
“Oh [Kaitlyn] rubs it in,” Ashley said. “Every birthday she’ll come into my room like three minutes early and say, ‘I’m older than you!” She makes sure I know.
“But I am a little bit taller. You have to look really close but I take pride in that.”
The two haven’t planned of what’s to come after high school, but they hope to stay together in college, possibly contiuning their basketball careers.
“We’d like to play college basketball,” Kaitlyn said. “That’s why we work so hard in the offseason because we want to get better and [playing in college] is our next goal. We’d like to be together.”
Their teammates include Emily Williams, Taylor Hayes, Haleu Lengyel, Olivia Wolfe, Ashley Cameron, Michaelina Terranova, Katie Rago and Jordan Fitzpatrick.
Despite what happens until then, both know the bonds they’ve made with their current teammates will be what they cherish as the two go off to college in the next couple of years.
“Winning is always great but the best thing is that everyone gets along and there’s always a ton of laughs,” Ashley said. “That’s one thing I’m going to miss when I graduate is my teammates because we’re all so close.”