They’re sisters – Avery, Abby, and Ambrose – and they form a mutual admiration society that’s made the winter athletic experience enjoyable for them and for their Cougar teammates. While they’re similar in many ways, each is very much her own person. In all that they do, they complement – and compliment – each other enthusiastically and genuinely.
“They all have a strong spirit and a lot of life in them,” said Coach Rives Fleming. “They look out for each other. They’re each other’s biggest supporters.”
Avery, a 5-7 senior and team captain, competes with verve and joie de vivre and leads through her actions as much as through her words. She’s a three-year varsity starter who also plays volleyball and softball (as well as the violin in the Collegiate Orchestra).
“Her thing on the court is what we call tai-chi,” Fleming said. “She plays undersized post because she’s such a good athlete. She’s energetic and aggressive. She dives on the floor. She dives out of bounds and throws the ball back in. She’ll wrestle you for a jump ball. She knows only one speed.”
Abby and Ambrose, both sophomores, are twins.
Abby, who’s 5-8, is an passionate, fearless competitor who aspires to play college hoops. She’s a two-year starter at the shooting guard position and also plays volleyball (as well as the bass in the Orchestra.)
“Abby has really developed her skills,” said Fleming. “Her outside shot has improved. She rebounds well, and she’s often given one of the hardest defensive assignments.”
This season, Avery has scored 109 points and accounted for 101 rebounds and 27 steals. Abby’s stat line reads 212 points, 115 boards, 37 steals, and 68 assists. Both have scored 345 points in their careers. Avery’s ledger includes 320 rebounds and 59 steals. Abby’s includes 207 rebounds, 60 steals, and 109 assists.
Ambrose, a 5-6 guard and a varsity hoops newcomer, has earned some playing time off the bench. She served as varsity volleyball manager, hopes to make the soccer team this spring, and is a gifted pianist, guitarist, actress, and singer who performs with Camerata and the Collegiate Chorus.
“Ambrose is everyone’s number one fan,” Fleming said. “She’s the first one up off the bench cheering. She’s so positive about everything. And a couple of times in summer league (in 2017), she just dominated games with her 3-point shooting.”
The idea of suiting up on the same basketball team has been years, literally, in the making.
“Ambrose and I talked about it back in Cougar Paws,” Abby said. “I knew we’d move up together. Avery wasn’t that far ahead of us. This is so cool because we’ve been on the team together and even had the three Freemans on the court at the same time, like a triple threat.”
Added Avery, “It’s worked out really well. It’s really fun because we know each other so well. Abby has a lot of experience with basketball because she plays AAU. A lot of times, she’s able to give me tips at practice and in games that are really helpful. Ambrose is really fun to be around all the time. Like most siblings, sometimes we get frustrated with each other, but overall it’s been really great.”
Though Ambrose has played only sporadically, she’s fine with pitching in where needed, often well out of the spotlight. She’s the quintessential “glue player.” She finds joy in the experience. She’s happy just to wear the Green and Gold and share the team experience.
“I’m new to the team,” she said. “I’m definitely OK with my role. I love to cheer them on. That’s part of my personality. I want to support people as much as I can.”
The Cougars have fielded a strong and experienced squad to compete against a very tough League of Independent Schools schedule. Trinity Episcopal (21-1), is the No. 1 team in the Richmond Times-Dispatch Top 10. St. Anne’s-Belfield (15-5) is the six-time defending LIS champ and dealt Trinity its only loss. St. Catherine’s, always strong and well coached, has defeated the Cougars twice.
“Coming into the season” Avery said, “we realized we’d have a lot of talent. For four of our five starters, basketball is the sport they’re dedicated to the most. We knew we had the skill. It was a matter of finding each other’s strengths and weaknesses, how we could interact with each other, how people respond in different situations. We’ve really gotten the hang of that.”
Tonight, Collegiate hosts Covenant at 6 o’clock in the Jacobs Gym. It’s the squad’s final regular-season game and Senior Night. The Cougars, whose schedule the past three weeks has included five games against the LIS powerhouses, are 12-9.
“We have a group of girls who work hard and try to get better,” said Abby in reference to the challenging competition. “We’ve had a rough couple of weeks, but we’ll get back on the horse and keep going.” -- Weldon Bradshaw