Benet basketball coach Peter Paul doesn’t need to think hard scribbling out his starting lineup every night.
Just remember the names Prasse and Valentine.
Two sisters on one team isn’t that uncommon. Neuqua Valley and York, to name two other schools, both feature twin sisters. But what makes Benet unique is just how much the Redwings rely on the sisters.
Together twin seniors Nicole and Taylor Valentine, senior Sidney Prasse and junior Christen Prasse make up almost 80 percent of Benet’s scoring and 70 percent of its rebounding.
It’s added up to one big year. Benet’s 18-game win streak spanned over two months, and these 24-6 regional champs are arguably the school’s best team since the 2004 group that beat Bolingbrook to win a sectional.
“We’re very fortunate,” Paul said. “They’ve played together for so long that they all know each other’s tendencies. That’s helped us greatly.”
One way or another, the girls always seemed to find each other on the court.
Both families grew up in Naperville, and the girls played together on the same park district team going back to the second grade. Come middle school, though, the Valentines went to St. Raphael and the Prasses to rival St. Peter and Paul with Benet teammate Madeline Eilers. In a Neuqua travel league the Prasses joined the Cobras and the Valentines the Magic.
Sidney’s and the Valentines’ eighth-grade year, St. Peter and Paul beat St. Raphael to win a league championship.
“If you ask the Valentines, they would say that they hated me and Madeline — they always had to guard me,” Sidney Prasse said. “I didn’t mind them.”
First open gym at Benet, the Valentines put it in their minds that they had to play better than Sidney, to show how good they were. It didn’t take long to realize they functioned better as a team than individually.
“We were enemies, but we figured that we would be teammates,” Taylor said, “and they’re such nice girls — it’s hard not to like them.”
Each of the four sisters brings her own unique skill set.
Sidney Prasse is the scorer, one of the area’s best streak shooters who can go off from 3-point range in the blink of an eye. Sneaky quick Christen Prasse, the point guard, distributes it well but has also developed a scorer’s mentality with the sixth sense of when to put it up or pass. Just ask Geneva, which she torched for a personal-high 30 points in December.
The Valentines bring their lunch pail to the court every night, Taylor asked to guard the opponent’s best post player bespite her 5-foot-8 height while Nicole checks a team’s top guard.
“Taylor and I always like to say defense brings the offense,” Nicole said. “I love having us sisters on the court. We feed off each other.”
The Valentines are twins, through and through. One night they discovered they had the exact same dream, down to fine details. Taylor Valentine, the “team clown” cracks sarcastic jokes constantly and Nicole never stops laughing at them.
“They could entertain each other all day,” Christen Prasse said.
Added Sidney: “They finish each other’s sentences, and it’s not even weird anymore. We just know it’s going to happen.”
Sidney and Christen could probably be more confused for twins than the twins, but they are very different.
If you don’t know her well, Sidney comes across as reserved, quiet. Nicole Valentines calls Christen the “life of the party” — outgoing, energetic and saying whatever is on her mind.
“She’s more blunt — she doesn’t always think before she speaks,” according to older sister Sidney. “She’s more of a daredevil.”
Christen said she’s learned from her sister how to be a leader, on and off the court. On the court the four sisters are always looking out for each other and “it’s very sentimental,” Christen said.
The girls joked that Christen should have joined the other three on the court for Senior Night, but she knows things will look very different a year from now. Sidney will be playing at St. Xavier, Nicole going to school at Indiana and Taylor at Iowa.
“I think about it all the time,” Christen said. “It’s different than just losing teammates — I’ll be losing family. They’re all like family.”
The girls have indeed become best friends and probably always will be. They spend weekends together at home, eating at Potbelly’s or at the movies. Paul sees the seniors sitting together at lunch every day.
“Someday,” he said, “I anticipate when one gets married the others are all going to be bridesmaids.”
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