Chartiers-Houston girls basketball coach Veronica Sansom knows that if she needs to send a form or packet of papers home that she should probably give two copies to Amanda Balzer, none to her twin sister Ashley.
When Sansom yells – hardly a rarity – she knows to direct it at Amanda. Quiet, off-to-the-side teaching points will likely resonate better with Ashley than cranking up the volume.
But when the Bucs need scoring or leadership, Sansom knows she can turn to either Ashley or Amanda Balzer – fraternal twins with Amanda getting about a three-minute head start – and things will work out just fine.
“It’s funny,” Sansom said. “They’re alike, but they’re different.”
They’re alike because they’re both straight-A students and multiple-sport athletes. Good at the sports, too. They are the type of kid that every parent would be proud to raise.
They’re different because while Ashley is the president of her class, she’s also been known to keep permission slips or physical forms buried in her basketball bag for days.
“She’s definitely more organized,” Ashley said of Amanda. “If she has homework, she gets it done the night of. I’ll be scrambling the period before. Or sometimes I’ll wake up in the morning be like, ‘Oh my God, I have homework.’
“I’m that kid.”
The differences don’t end there, of course, but let’s jump back to the similarities.
Ashley and Amanda Balzer have combined to average 21.7 points per game for a Chartiers-Houston team that was bumped up to Class AA and thrust into Section 4-AA, which includes three of last year’s four WPIAL semifinalists in Steel Valley, Bishop Canevin and Seton-La Salle, the latter two playing at the A.J. Palumbo Center for the championship.
Nonetheless, Ashley (11.9 ppg) and Amanda (9.8) have been two of the team’s leaders, two of four senior starters charged with keeping things positive and helping the Bucs battle Fort Cherry for the fourth and final playoff spot.
“Basically in the end, you’re a family, and you have to stick together through thick and thin,” Amanda Balzer said. “Yeah, we’ve been thrown in hard section, but we’ve overcome obstacles before.”
Ashley is a 5-10 forward, the bigger of the two, and averages 8.4 rebounds, 2.6 steals, 2.2 blocks and 1.9 assists per game.
Amanda is the scrapper of the two, a 5-7 small forward who has yet to meet a loose ball she didn’t like. She averages four rebounds, three steals and 2.4 points per game.
They have different skill sets, but the same mindset.
“Where Ashley has a lot of offensive talent – she’s the leading scorer on our team – Amanda is one of our best defensive players,” Sansom said. “They’re both just tough, hard-nosed, competitive kids. They’d run through a brick wall if you asked them. Coaches love kids like that.”
The differences, though, are what make these two special - and highly entertaining.
Ashley Balzer has started at goalkeeper for the Chartiers-Houston girls soccer team the past two years, amassing 216 saves this past season while earning all-section honors and getting named the team’s defensive MVP.
At games, Amanda Balzer would scream her lungs out, wearing her sister’s jersey in support.
Amanda Balzer is a talented hurdler and placed second at the WPIAL meet last spring with a time of 15.93 seconds in the 100 hurdles. She took seventh in the 300 in 48.40.
“I would go and yell at her,” explained Ashley, who also runs track.
“It would be like legit yelling, though,” Amanda clarified. “It would be kind of scary.
“The 300 hurdles, the straightaway to the home stretch, all I hear is, ‘Run, Amanda, run, they’re right behind you.’ Meanwhile, there’s no one around me.”
Ashley’s response: “They’re going to catch you if you don’t run fast enough.”
At home, Amanda Balzer will unload every detail about her day to her parents, as Amanda makes a beeline for her room, content to play video games or fall asleep.
“Sometimes we don’t see her for a few days,” Amanda joked.
Both, apparently, find enough time to make it work in the classroom, despite several extracurricular activities.
Ashley Balzer carries a 4.4 grade-point average, Amanda a 4.0 - though with admittedly harder classes. While Ashley is the president of the National Honor Society, Amanda served as the group’s historian. Both are members of the Leo Club. Both lead groups every summer for Chartiers-Houston’s Bucs for Bucks summer camps.
“I’ve actually sent emails to their mom, complimenting her on these two kids because you can’t say that about every kid today,” Sansom said. “These kids are really good kids, nice kids and respectful.”
For as close as Ashley and Amanda Balzer are, they purposely want to go to college at separate schools. Amanda plans on running track at Allegheny, while Ashley is exploring the idea of playing soccer at Marietta or W&J.
That leaves just four regular season games – plus a possible playoff trip – in their basketball careers at Chartiers-Houston.
There’s also a crucial turning point ahead considering the Bucs suffered a costly, one-point loss to third-place Steel Valley last week.
“The last three years, we expected to make the playoffs,” Sansom said. “This is different. We don’t expect to make playoffs, but we’re trying to earn that right.
“We’re either going to go up or down after that Steel Valley loss.”
Given she has Ashley and Amanda Balzer as leaders, Sansom can probably rule out that second option.