SPIRIT LAKE – Timberlake basketball standouts Allison Kirby and Keelie Lawler discovered at an early age that together they’re better than by themselves.
Their unselfish approach has not only served them well but also has served Timberlake well.
Four-year starters, they hope to play in the State 3A final for a fourth time and repeat as state champions this weekend.
They’ve been best friends since third grade, and have played basketball together since second grade. That works out to roughly 400 games – nearly 100 in high school and approximately 260 on the same club team.
To say they’ve been glued at the hip couldn’t be more accurate. They’ve played soccer and done track together. They even attend the same church youth group. It would probably be easier to note what they don’t do together.
And they’re at the top of their class academically. Lawler has never had a B and will, at the least, be a co-valedictorian. Kirby is in the top 10 with a 3.85 grade-point average.
Both will continue playing basketball in college. Kirby, a 5-foot-7 point guard, signed with the University of Idaho and Lawler, a 5-8 wing, is headed to NCAA Division II Western State Colorado.
Timberlake coach Matt Miller can point to a number of things where Lawler and Kirby have made an impression. He especially treasures one that can’t be measured by a statistic.
“In their four years they’ve established a standard over and beyond winning,” Miller said. “You’ll see one dive on the floor. Then a little bit later the other will dive for a loose ball – even when we’re up by 30 points or more. It’s just part of their nature. Now anybody and everybody will do it at the drop of a hat regardless of time and score. I’m sure the others think ‘if the two best players are not afraid to do it, all of us should do it’.”
Timberlake is 82-16 over the last four years. Kirby eclipsed 1,000 points in career scoring four games into the season and stands at 1,229; Lawler, who has played in 17 fewer games than Kirby because of various injuries, reached the milestone 12 games later and is at 1,100.
“It’s just a number,” Kirby said of her career points. “It’s cool and it’s a great accomplishment but there’s so much more that goes into basketball than just points.”
The career record is 1,710 set by Cassie Thompson, a 2011 grad who went on to play at Portland.
Thompson’s record might have been challenged had Kirby or Lawler played four years without the other.
Both wouldn’t want it any other way, though. Lawler is averaging a team-leading 14.9 points to go with 6.4 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 2.9 assists this season and Kirby is averaging 13.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 4.0 steals.
Their numbers are up over last year. They rarely played together last year because Miller rotated his starters among 13 players. Lawler and Kirby had to anchor either the starting lineup each game or the first wave of substitutes.
“They averaged about 14 minutes a game,” Miller said.
The girls shared the Intermountain League most valuable player honor a year ago and did so again this season.
Kirby was named the 3A All-Idaho (all state) player of the year last season. She averaged 9.8 points, 3.7 steals, 3.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists.
Lawler, a first team All-Idaho selection, averaged 12.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 2.2 assists.
Their basketball feats are too numerous to mention.
And they’ve managed to play three sports (soccer and track) while maintaining excellence in the classroom.
They spent last summer attending wrestling coach Kelly Amos’ 90-minute morning conditioning program.
“I’m way stronger and more athletic because of it,” Lawler said. “It was hard, I’m not going to lie.”
Said Kirby: “We did it to prepare for the next level. Your skills don’t really get better in college, but you need to get stronger.”
So as they head to state on Thursday, they may have just three more games together.
They will cherish their years at Timberlake. And they will leave their hand prints all over the school.
“It’s hard to see the impact we’ve had because we’re right in the middle of it now,” Lawler said. “The culture has completely changed. It’s inspiring. I want to look back and say we left a legacy.”
The Tigers’ motto from a year ago – ‘we is greater than me’ – sums up Kirby and Lawler to a T.
It’s why they’ll leave Timberlake basketball better than they found it.
“Their commitment to the program and the fact that they’re good, high character kids will be missed,” Miller said. “They’ve helped infuse that in our program. They’ve done a big part to help create that culture. I may not ever have a pair of players like them again.”
The duo will miss playing on the same team.
“All good things must come to an end at some time,” Kirby said. “And usually there’s more to life on the other side. Hopefully we’re leaving the basketball community where everyone is unselfish and they’d rather work for the greater good more than themselves.”