Basketball is a team game with five players from each team on the court at one time. As it turns out, the 2022-2023 Lake Geneva varsity girls basketball team can field more than just a starting-five with the three sets of sisters on the team, which include fraternal twins Molly and Delaney Deering, Makayla and Payton Hayes, and Bella and Vanessa Cruz.
“It’s a good experience to be able to play with your sibling,” Bella Cruz said. “It’s really cool and a lot of fun.”
Bella has been on the varsity basketball team since her freshman season. Vanessa joined the team last season as a sophomore.
“Growing up, we were competitive in everything,” Vanessa said. “On the court, if we’re guarding each other (in practice), I know what she’s (Bella) going to do. Having your sister on your team, I feel like pushes me to be better. It gives me that drive to always want to compete.”
People are also reading…
Bella said their personalities differ quite a bit, but it has helped them grow closer together.
“It brings us closer because we get something that we’re missing from each other,” Bella said.
This is the second consecutive season that Bella and Vanessa have played on the same basketball team. They’re also members of the track and field team at Badger.
Each pair of sisters are within one grade level of each other. In the case of Bella and Vanessa, Bella is one year older and the lone senior of the group.
“I kind of feel like a mom figure who is always making sure she (Vanessa) is doing what she is supposed to and she’s on it,” Bella said. “I’m very protective. She’s my ‘little baby.’”
She may feel like a mom to Vanessa, but nobody outdoes their parents, according to Bella.
“Our mom is very determined and has really been influential in our lives, especially in sports,” she said. “She’s a good role model and has shown us how to be strong and persevere through things ... Our dad, he is probably one of the hardest working people I know. He started his own business and works a lot, but he always makes time to come to all of our events and stuff.”
Bella recently visited Wisconsin Lutheran College and said she enjoyed her visit. Although, she hasn’t officially decided where she’ll attend college yet, she will be pursuing a degree within the medical field in Neurodiagnostics due to her love and passion for science, referring to herself as a “big science nerd.”
No matter where Bella ends up going to college, Vanessa is adamant that she will be going to a different school.
“I don’t mean that in a bad way, but we definitely have different paths,” Vanessa said. “I either want to go to school in Milwaukee or the University of Alabama for a business degree to be a hairstylist. Bella is going into the medical field; she’s going to be in school a lot longer than me.”
Bella and Vanessa both acknowledged that this is the first year where they have had their own room, but the sibling rivalry remains as strong as ever whether it’s in sports, school or whatever the topic may be.
“We have a sibling rivalry, but I still want her to succeed to her fullest extent possible,” Bella said. “But at the same time, I want to beat her.”
Despite the competitive drive to beat each other at everything, Vanessa knows this will be the final season she’ll be able to play with Bella on the same team and she just wants to enjoy it.
“I’m just going to try and enjoy the moment since this is the last time I will be able to play with my sister,” she said. “After this I’ll be on my own and I know I’ll be fine. But I hope we can have a moment where we win together on the same team and enjoy that aspect of basketball.”
Makayla, a junior, and Payton, a sophomore, have played sports all their lives. Currently, they play basketball, volleyball and soccer. They also participate in dance, play AAU basketball and club volleyball outside of school.
“I have tried to imagine being another girl on our team and not having someone that is always on your side whether you screw up or it’s forced, they’re always going to be the one that has your back,” Makayla said of her sister. “We never feel alone.”
Payton said she is much more reserved and quiet compared to her older sister, but she has learned to open up more from watching Makayla, who she called “more outgoing and loud.”
“You can see where they go in life and how it takes them,” she said. “You can follow in their footsteps or make your own path. Her (Makayla’s) leadership and her ability to speak out is something I have definitely grown into.”
Makayla and Payton still have a couple years of high school remaining, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t thought ahead. Despite not knowing what major they want to pursue after graduation or where they want to go, they know they want to be on a basketball court somewhere.
“We have been to a lot of schools just to look around and we both want to go for basketball,” Makayla said. “However, I don’t know what I want to do yet and I don’t know where I’ll end up, but our mom went to Florida Southern College and we visited there and really liked the school and the coaches.”
The Hayes’ sisters said their sibling rivalries doesn’t really come out on the basketball court because they play different positions.
“We play different positions in every sport we participate in,” Makayla said. “We’re not really competitive against each other, I think it’s more of I’m going to support your (Payton’s) thing and she’s going to support me in whatever I’m doing.”
Makayla said their mom played basketball together with Bella and Vanessa’s mom at Badger High School. The Cruz and Hayes sisters both have younger brothers, too, who also play on the same youth basketball team.
“Our mom has been a huge part of our lives,” she said. “Our mom played in college and has been our coach when we were younger, so she has always been there for us personally and for sports as well.”
The Hayes’ sisters have their sights set on playing college basketball in the future, so this year it’s all about making the team and themselves better.
“I want to get a double-double every game,” Makayla said. “I’m trying to up my game and I want coaches to come recruit me. Junior year is kind of a big year for that. I want to get my name out there.”
Payton has the same goal in mind.
“I have been trying to definitely get my stats up from last season and making more baskets and getting more steals,” she said. “Every time I go on the court, I want to play like it’s the last time I get to play basketball.”
The Deering twins
All the sisters said they were close with each other, but nobody is closer than the Deering’s, literally. Delaney is only 11 minutes older than Molly and they had been in every class together up until high school.
“I can’t imagine not having her (Delaney) everywhere with me,” Molly said. “Wherever I am, I see her.”
That applies outside of school and in sports as they are both on the Badger track and field team, the cross-country team and basketball team
“If she (Delaney) gets hurt, overwhelmed or starts crying, I can’t look at her,” Molly said. “We just have that bond.”
Delaney played on the JV team during her freshman year before being elevated to varsity with her sister this season.
“We were very similar up until last year when we were on different teams,” Delaney said. It’s good to have things that are different than your sister, but I think it’s good and it feels so much better being on the same team.”
While the Deering’s don’t graduate until 2025, Delaney wants to go the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Molly plans to go to a smaller school and hopefully continue running cross-country.
“I think I want to try and be on my own,” Delaney said. “Our brother, sister, grandpa, mom and uncle all went there (University of Wisconsin-Madison), so there’s a lot of people that have gone there. But I think it will be good for us to separate a little bit after high school. I feel like I want to build myself up.”
For now, though, they do everything together and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I feel like we’re the same person and everything is a competition,” Delaney said referring to Molly. “I want the best for all of them (Hayes, Cruz sisters), but I don’t feel as though I’m competing with them, but I am competing with Molly.”
Overlooking that sibling competition is their dad, Steve Deering, who is the Badger girls varsity basketball head coach.
“Having our dad as a coach is great,” Molly said. “He has been our coach basically forever, so we’re used to it. It’s good and bad. Obviously, not everyone is going to like what he says, but we always are trying to be empathetic to the team and the coach (our dad). It’s a balancing act.”
Delaney acknowledged that he’s a dad at home and a coach on the court, which she has enjoyed.
“Our dad is a huge supporter in other sports as well, especially basketball,” she said. “He’s super motivational and supportive. He will tell you when you make mistakes and try to help us get better. Our mom is always there for us in support. She is at every meet for cross-country and track and she is at every game for basketball. She always wants to talk after, but that’s not as fun when you lose.”
Molly called all the members of her family role models who she looks up to.
“They have played such a big role not just with us, but our older siblings as well (brother is 20, sister is 22),” she said. “We just have a bunch of really good role models.”
Those role models have especially been helpful and supportive since Delaney was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 8 years old.
“I have the Dexcom G6 Follow app for her connected on my phone, so I know when she has a low blood sugar and I’m like ‘you have to fix it now,’” Molly said. “I can see her shaking sometimes when she’s low and I’m like ‘someone get me some juice.’”
The Dexcom G6 is a continuous glucose monitoring system (CGM) for those living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes that provides glucose (blood sugar) readings every five minutes to your phone and others that follow you on the app.
“I’ll be shaky and I’ll look at Molly and my mom in the stands and I’ll be like ‘blood sugar,’” Delaney said. “They’re always right on it and freaking out. If I airball it, I can blame it on my blood sugar being low, so it’s not my fault.”
Delaney was the only one of the sisters who was not on the varsity team last year and she is excited to have the opportunity.
“I want to establish myself more on this team and prove myself,” she said. “I also want to improve my shot and shoot more in the games because I know I can make them. Team wise, I want to make sure everyone is being supportive of each other. Compared to JV 1, we’re definitely a lot closer on this team.”
Molly played on the varsity team as a freshman, though she admits she is still trying to improve her confidence of being at that level.
“At the beginning of the last year, I was scared to be playing on varsity,” she said. “But once I know I’m good, I can play without nerves. I love the game of basketball and I love to play it. As a team, I want to see how well we can play and I think we can do better in conference (Southern Lakes) than we did last year and I think our record will be a lot better.”
All one big family
While the three sets of sisters make up 42% of 14 girls on the Badger girls varsity basketball team, they are still all one big Badger family.
“All of us are protective of each other,” Bella Cruz said. “If something happens, we’ll be there for one another.”