When Claire Schaeperkoetter’s team plays Andrea Seabaugh’s team, it is the game to watch.
Seabaugh dribbles circles around her defenders while casually chewing her gum. Schaeperkoetter moves the ball methodically on offense and then flips on the pressure switch on defense.
Maybe it is their contrasting styles that make the games interesting to watch. It could be the legacy they have built as rivals through the years. Whatever the reasons, the matchup is intriguing.
The difference this year is the competition takes place in practice, where the crowd is smaller and the stakes lower. During games, the rivals are teammates, and their powers combined have led their team to new heights.
Rock Bridge’s freshmen point guards have been competing against each other since fourth grade. It is a rivalry that has motivated them to work harder and improve, and now it is fueling a team that is not used to being the front-runner.
The adjustment has not been too hard for the two young stars because, though they are teammates, they still have to compete against each other for playing time.
“Even at practice we’re still going head-to-head, we’re like never on the same team,” Schaeperkoetter says. “I think it’s healthy, we push each other.”
Schaeperkoetter, 15, is the taller of the two at 5-foot-8 and has had the edge this season with playing time. She is the starter on the varsity.
Seabaugh, 15, is 5-4 and has split time on the junior varsity team to get more playing time. She is seeing her role on the varsity increase, though, as she has become more consistent.
Although Seabaugh sometimes looks like she could be on Sportscenter because of her ball handling skills, Schaeperkoetter’s steady, early play gave her the edge.
“(Schaeperkoetter) just stepped up and took it upon herself and, for whatever reason, she separated herself from the other point guards early on,” coach Kevin Giese says. “But Andrea has really come along and her confidence is gaining in herself and my confidence in her is gaining.”
The rivalry aside, Schaeperkoetter and Seabaugh also have to handle the pressure of being freshmen given the responsibility of running their team.
“It was a lot of pressure at first, but I’m starting to get over it,” Seabaugh says. “And now that I am starting to face the pressure it’s just been a lot more fun.”
Schaeperkoetter says what she has enjoyed the most is how the pressure goes away once the game starts.
“Once you’re on the court, no one thinks of you as a freshman anymore,” Schaeperkoetter says. “I was kind of worried about getting some of those people who hate freshmen.”
“Off the court, yeah, they make fun of the freshmen so much, but on the court it’s an equal playing field.”
Giese says the girls have fit in well, though Schaeperkoetter says she and the other freshmen are occasionally called jokingly “the scum of the earth.”
Giese says there “really is no animosity” between the players, and Seabaugh and Schaeperkoetter say their relationship off the court grows each week.
Giese says what they need to improve the most is their strength, which he plans on fixing by getting them to the weight room in the off-season. Both players have room to improve, but their assets are numerous.
“They’ve both played so much ball that they expect to have success,” Giese says. “They’re both great shooters; they’re probably our best two one-on-one players that we have offensively.”
In elementary school they would play against boys, a challenge they say they enjoyed.
“It’s great when you play against guys and they think because you’re a girl you’re going to be terrible,” Schaeperkoetter says. “Then when you get out there and they see you actually know how to play basketball, that really impresses a lot of them.”
Their rivalry might become less intense toward the end of this season, as Giese plans on using them together during games because of their ball handling and shooting abilities, which means they won’t compete for the other’s playing time as much.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to start playing together more and if one of us has to move to the (shooting) guard then we’ll be able to do that, and that’s what I’m working towards, too,” Seabaugh says.
Combined with sophomores Ashley Dressler and Rachel Drennanand freshman Lauren Borduin the group forms the core of Rock Bridge’s future. They are looking forward to leading the team under Giese.
“I just feel like this year has been such a strong building block for what we think we can do in the future,” Schaeperkoetter says. “We just can’t help but think that the more we’re around coach the better we’ll just be able to be.”
Then the game to watch will be when Andrea Seabaugh and Claire Schaeperkoetter play together.