Family affair

Tingley sisters follow own paths at Juneau's two high schools

Posted: Wednesday, December 23, 2009

They shared a warm embrace after Friday night's first-ever cross-town matchup between Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain high schools in what is not quite yet a rivalry game.

Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

Big sister Mahlet Tingley's uber-experienced and ultra-talented Crimson Bears girls' basketball team had just laid the proverbial smack down on little sister Eyerus Tingley's fledgling Falcons, a first-year squad full of freshmen and sophomores.

The scoreboard was expectedly unkind, but the sentiment from the sisters' big hug was sweet.

"It was a little difficult to stay focused, but it was a conference game so it counts," said Mahlet, an interview-savvy senior guard. "So when I'm out there and she's out there, it's competitive. We're still family and we're respectful, but (the Bears) still have to win."

"It was kind of, I wouldn't say scary, but I was really nervous," said Eyerus, a press-shy freshman point guard. "I didn't know how we would do, but we did way better than I thought we would against them."

The Tingleys are originally from Ethiopia, and were adopted by Barbara Learmonth and Albert Tingley and brought to Juneau in 2001.

Eyerus said their parents didn't really say much about the sisters' first head-to-head matchup, but perhaps they were directing all of their trash talking toward Mahlet.

"They joke around a lot: 'I'm going to cheer for your younger sister; I've been cheering for you for too long.' But my younger brother is always on my side, so it works out," Mahlet said. "It balances out well.

"They both came to the game wearing red and blue and were supportive of both of us, which we appreciate."

Eyerus understands it will likely be a few years before Thunder Mountain even nears the level of Juneau-Douglas on the court. So Mahlet tried to help her out with some big-sisterly advice: "She just said to keep your head up, play as hard as you can and it will get better."

Mahlet and Eyerus both said they are close - "just like normal sisters" - and alike in many ways, but very different in others.

"I'd have to say that her and my little brother, Ashu, are probably my best friends," Mahlet said. "At first sight, a lot of people would say we're very different. But really, once you get to know us, we're a lot more similar than people think. We both enjoy sports and a lot of the same things, but she's more of a little girly-girl than I am."

"She's definitely not a girly-girl," Eyerus countered with a big smile. "I think we've gotten closer as I've gotten older and more mature. Most times, we don't really agree on some things and she always wins in everything, so it's hard."

Mahlet said she's the more competitive of the two, and no, they don't play much 1-on-1.

"Usually, she rebounds for me to shoot and I rebound for her. We go to JRC a lot together and we grew up playing soccer, and now basketball," Mahlet said. "We're competitive in different ways. I like playing competitive ball, and she's more in it because she enjoys it. I like to win a lot. I've been involved with sports a lot more thanshe has."

"I'm not competitive in other stuff," Eyerus agreed. "Basketball is pretty much the only sport I play. We used to (play soccer), and she's really good at it still. But I wasn't that good soI quit."

The Tingleys live in the valley, and Eyerus wanted to "start fresh" in high school instead of following in big sis' footsteps at Juneau-Douglas, a decision Mahlet applauded her for.

"I didn't want to change before my last year. I thought it would be too dramatic and I wanted to finish where I started," she said of her choice to remain a Crimson Bear. "She wanted to set her own path, and I thought that was very smart and a good idea.

"She wanted to pave her own road, and that's agood thing."

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