By Kevin Wilson
A family reunion is never far away for Kassandra and Ashleah Richards.
It happens with every game and every practice for the Portales girls basketball team. The sisters are hoping to have a few more family reunions, with state championships in basketball and softball as a backdrop.
“Our state championship just brought us so much closer,” Ashleah, the younger of the two sisters, said of November’s Class 3A volleyball championship. “We know how it feels and we just want it more.”
Just like the volleyball season, the basketball season has been a good one for Portales and the Richards sisters. On an average night, the Richards sisters have been good for around 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Kassandra was expected to contribute, having led Portales in scoring and rebounding last season. Meanwhile, Ashleah has been a solid addition in her sophomore season, considering she was one of seven players on Portales’ opening-night roster that had never played a minute of varsity.
“I think Kassandra’s been really consistent and Ashleah has been a really nice surprise as far as being a post player,” Portales coach Brenda Gomez said.
Gomez sees them as different players, but the sisters see themselves as mirror images, for the most part.
“We’re alike in every way,” Ashleah said. “We dress the same, we do our makeup the same. I don’t think there’s any difference.”
Obviously, there are differences — some that defy conventional basketball logic. While Kassandra is two-and-a-half inches taller (5-foot-5 1/2 to 5-foot-3), it is Ashleah who plays post while Kassandra plays guard.
And although Kassandra is two years the elder, it is Ashleah who is less self-conscious.
“She’s really funny and makes everyone laugh and I’m the laid-back type,” Kassandra said. “I care what people think. She can go to the store in sweats and I have to be cleaned up.”
Off the court, Ashleah might present an unsuspecting teammate with a “credit card” — a finger swipe along a person’s backside.
When she’s on the court, she tries to present her team with second chances on offense, with rebounds against posts who usually dwarf her in size.
“She’s mean,” Kassandra said of Ashleah. “I don’t know if that’s a good quality. She’s strong and she’s physical and she’s never scared.”
Kassandra, meanwhile, tries to do her damage by shooting the ball, and shooting the ball and — most importantly — shooting the ball. Just like senior guard and teammate Erika Cook, Kassandra has always had the green light on offense.
“She doesn’t take bad shots,” Gomez said of Kassandra. “She takes it to the hole well and gets fouled. She’s a good outside shooter and she can penetrate and finish.”
Kassandra’s been through several experiences, and Ashleah admits that she is still early on that path. It’s a path that Ashleah hopes will end with a state championship in basketball and softball.
“Kass has been playing since she was so tiny,” Ashleah said of the upcoming softball season, where Kassandra will pitch for her fourth season.
“I just want to win it for her, just like it (was) in volleyball, just like it is in basketball.”