Tasha and Teisha Rich may speak softly, but the twin Lakewood seniors know how to be heard on the basketball court.
Tall and athletic, these two girls helped lead the Lady Leopards to the fifth round of the state 1A basketball playoffs last year. Lakewood’s girls team went the entire season without a conference loss, and the team’s one and only defeat during regular season was to rival Clinton, a 2A school, in the very first game of the year.
The twins admit that Teisha is the better athlete, and it’s Tasha who knows her way around the math class. But, on the other hand, Teisha’s a good student, too, while Tasha would probably be a star player on just about any other team in Sampson County.
In speaking about that, Tasha said she knows she’s good if she can beat Teisha in a sport. “I try to give it my all and compete against my sister,” she said with a laugh, adding, “It makes me better because she’s such a good competitor.”
Talking about academics, Teisha pointed at Tasha and said firmly, “She takes that away.”
The two girls are Academic All-Stars and earned top honors for their basketball performances on and off the court. Both were named to the All-Conference team, and Tasha was named best All-Around player and the Player with the Highest GPA.
Teisha was named Most Valuable Player, plus she got the Coach’s Award in basketball.
The twins have played the game since joining the middle school team in seventh grade.
“I’ve just always loved to play; it’s been my passion since I was little,” Teisha expressed.
Tasha nodded in agreement and said, “The only sport I’ve had the love for is basketball and I didn’t really want to try out for anything else.”
Both girls play power forward, but Tasha has also been put at small forward and Teisha plays the center position when needed.
So what is it about the game that makes these girls love it so much they even play on the summer league with the school team?
Teisha said, “I just love to get out there with my team and play hard. It runs in the family, our mom and dad played in high school, too.”
Tasha nodded, and added, “I like to lift my teammates up and give them encouraging words and push them to do better.”
The summer league is coached by their high school coach, Lofton Kerr, and is made up of the same girls on the high school team. They play on Tuesdays and Thursdays against other schools in the area.
The team played the day before this interview.
“We went to Cape Fear and played Cape Fear, St. Pauls, Clinton, and Hobbton and won every game,” Teisha said with a smile.
Tasha added that there will be no tournament at the end of the summer. “These games keep us in shape and out of trouble during the summer,” she said with a laugh.
Both girls are looking forward to the upcoming high school basketball season. “We’re going all the way this year,” Teisha declared.
While basketball is the only sport they compete together in, Teisha is a standout volleyball player and track star, and Tasha said she attends all her sister‘s events
Teisha works hard at all three sports. “I practice and what ever I’m going to do, I will try my best,” she insisted.
Teisha was on the All-Conference team in volleyball and came in third in the regionals in shot put and the 4x4 relay.
She competed in the state 1A playoffs, but didn’t place. “There was good competition there,” she added.
The Leopard volleyball team also made it to the fifth round in the state 1A playoffs. “We can go as far or even further than last season if we just play hard and play together,” Teisha asserted.
Explaining what it is about volleyball that she likes, Teisha said. “My favorite thing is spiking and blocking the ball. That‘s the most exciting part about volleyball.”
So what made both these Lakewood teams so good?
Without even pausing to think, Tasha said, “I think the teams are so good because we have coaches and parents that push us.”
Teisha agreed, and said, “They motivate us to play hard. Every game, I have that drive to play my best.”
“And I hate to lose,” Tasha added with a smile.
The girls believe their athleticism and positive attitude comes from their parents, Rita (DeVane) and James Rich. Rita was a Lady Spartan in basketball, volleyball, and softball. James played basketball and ran track for the Leopards.
“Our parents have been big influences in our lives because they are always there for us,” Teisha stated.
“They have been great role models They always have something positive to say and they’re always there to lift us up,” Tasha added.
In thinking back over the season, Tasha said her favorite memory from basketball was beating James Kenan all four times the two teams went up against each other last year. “We got tired of playing them,” she said candidly.
The very best win out of the four, according to Tasha, was when the Lady Leopards won the conference tournament title. “During the conference tournament final, one of our starting players got hurt, and our team came together. We beat them by a great margin,” she said proudly.
For Teisha, she recalled Lakewood’s win in the fourth round of the state playoffs.
“I liked playing in Fayetteville (at the Crown Colisium) when we beat Goldsboro and I scored the winning basket,” she said with a smile.
Urged to give more details, Teisha described the moment: “Tasha got the rebound and passed it to another teammate, Sasha Martin, and she passed it to me and I made the layup. There was about three seconds left in the game.”
(Lakewood fans went crazy as a stunned Goldsboro team walked off the court.)
In volleyball, Teisha said she’ll never forget the team’s win over Pender for the conference tournament title. “It was the very last play when Bailey Dudley blocked the ball and it fell right in their face. That was our winning point,” she said proudly.
So, with all this winning going on, have the twins learned anything about life and what it takes to be successful in something other than sports?
Tasha said, “I’ve learned to be a team player and always lift my teammates up, even if everything doesn’t go just right.”
Teisha said she has learned that hard work pays off. “If you give it your all everyday and play, or work, hard then something good will come out of it in the end,” she asserted.
The twins do have their difference of opinion on occaision, but both agree it has never been over anything major. “It’s stuff like where are we going to eat,” Tasha explained with a laugh. “At the end of the day we always get back together.”
They have the same interests outside of sports, which include their church, Royals Missionary Baptist in Ivanhoe, singing for the church, and hanging out with their friends.
As far as the future after high school, it seems they plan to go their separate ways.
Tasha wants to attend East Carolina University and become a physical therapist, while Teisha hopes to play basketball at a four-year university and major in athletic training.