Sophomore twins Cailynn and Kerra Baxter, outside, and juniors twins Jaya and MikahCarandang, inside, smile for a picture after their Monday night practice at Thunder Mountain High School. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Sophomore twins Cailynn and Kerra Baxter, outside, and juniors twins Jaya and MikahCarandang, inside, smile for a picture after their Monday night practice at Thunder Mountain High School. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Double-double trouble: It’s a win-win to have two sets of twins for TMHS girls basketball

Sophomores Kerra and Cailynn Baxter and juniors Jaya and Mikah Carandang talk chemistry, advantages

You can’t spell twins without wins, and the Thunder Mountain High School girls basketball team has seen more of both this season.

Sophomore twins Cailynn and Kerra Baxter and juniors twins Jaya and Mikah Carandang have been standouts this year for the TMHS girls basketball team, averaging more points and more minutes than this time last year, according to the girl’s coach Andy Lee.

Lee said the Baxter twins, both listed at over six feet tall, are known for their speed, athleticism and strong defense skills all while being able to rack up points for the team. Currently, Kerra Baxter is the team’s leading scorer with an average of 13 points per game.

The Carandangs might contrast the Baxter’s in their height but match their energy in their shooting and hustle, Lee said. The duo are reliable three-point threats as exemplified in games earlier this season when each sister hit buzzer-beating 3-pointers ahead of halftime in back-to-back games against Ketchikan.

The Lady Falcon’s team as a whole has also seen its success skyrocket compared to its previous season and with a 11-6 record compared to 6-12 this time last year. The team also went winless in their conference last year, but this year has played two close games — winning one — against last year’s conference champs, Ketchikan.

So, what’s the secret to the Baxters’ and Carandangs’ growing success? A lot of hard work and chemistry.

“It’s a family organization — our whole atmosphere and the whole environment is about family,” Lee said. “Their bond together has benefited the team and I think their closeness rubs off on everybody.”

Sophomore twins Cailynn and Kerra Baxter, outside, and juniors twins Jaya and Mikah Carandang, inside, smile for a picture after their Monday night practice at Thunder Mountain High School. ( Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Sophomore twins Cailynn and Kerra Baxter, outside, and juniors twins Jaya and Mikah Carandang, inside, smile for a picture after their Monday night practice at Thunder Mountain High School. ( Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

The four agree. At the Lady Falcon’s Monday evening practice, there were always at least two of the four girls on the court running drills with the other players, each girl flashing smiles as they wore a different colored practice jersey to their respective twin.

“It’s not just that they have chemistry,” Cailynn said after practice, talking about the Carandangs, “but we all have chemistry together.”

Mikah Carandang dribbles while surveying the court during a home game against Wasilla. She was tightly defended by Meilee Merchant. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

Mikah Carandang dribbles while surveying the court during a home game against Wasilla. She was tightly defended by Meilee Merchant. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

How that chemistry manifests goes beyond just the bond of being a twin. The four have been playing basketball together for years, first joining forces during middle school, and the Baxters’ older brother, junior Thomas, and the Carandangs’ older brother, Brady, also share a bond over their love for the game.

Both brothers are well-known faces in the basketball community in Juneau as Brady Carandang is the most-recent TMHS player to score 1,000 points over the course of a high school career and Thomas Baxter earned second team all-state honors last year as a sophomore.

“I know that Thomas looks up to Brady, and Brady helps him out,” Jaya said.

The four said they are feeling good about the team’s improvement since the start of the season as they approach the midway point of the season, and said with six conference games left in the season, they feel confident with the team’s ability to keep the momentum going.

“I think this season is going really great,” Mikah said. “I think for me personally, this season has been better than last season.”

Kerra added: “I think it’s great because we’re a different team than last year and I think our chemistry is a lot better this year.”

Lee said for him it’s been a bit of a struggle to learn how to tell the twins apart from one another since each pair joined the team, but said he’s getting better as time goes on. Before the Baxter twins joined the team, Lee was also coaching another pair of the twins, Mary Neal and Mary Khaye Garcia, who were seniors when the Carandangs were freshmen on the team.

Cailynn Baxter (23) eyes the hoop on her way down the court during a home game win against Palmer High School. Her twin sister Kerra (22) and teammate Addi Wilson (25) can be seen in the background. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

Cailynn Baxter (23) eyes the hoop on her way down the court during a home game win against Palmer High School. Her twin sister Kerra (22) and teammate Addi Wilson (25) can be seen in the background. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

“I’m usually about 67% right,” he said about the Carandangs and Baxters while the girls laughed in response. “But, I mean the fact that there are two sets is a double blessing, and the fact that they get along well is amazing.”

Though the four are often recognized as a piece of a pair, they said they all know their strengths as individuals and use that to their advantage on the court.

“For us four, we know how to be independent,” Mika said. “We have each other but we know how to be our own person.”

Jaya added: “There’s a lot of advantage to having twins on the court.”

The Lady Falcons are preparing for an upcoming home game Thursday night against Mt. Edgecumbe High School at 5:45 p.m. before heading into conference games against Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé on Tuesday, Feb. 14 at JDHS and Tuesday, Feb. 21 at TMHS, both games start at 7:15 p.m.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

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