NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

December 26, 2013

Sisters, stars and teammates

By Tim Lima
Staff writer

---- — NEWBURYPORT — Teammates on the court and sisters at home, Mary and Emily Pettigrew reflect on their experiences playing basketball alongside each other for the Clippers.

Mary has met every challenge facing her over her four years of playing varsity basketball. She began her high school career by playing on and contributing to the big club and has steadily improved with each passing season. Last year, she led her team statistically in both scoring and rebounding by wide margins, and this year she was rewarded with the opportunity to lead her team as a captain.

Mary also excelled at a unique challenge that she never faced before: sharing the spotlight and being teammates with her younger sister, Emily.

“I didn’t think I would like it at first,” Mary said. “It was the first time we have ever been on the same team together. I was afraid we would always be compared. We helped out each other a lot, so it has worked out well, and I ended up liking it a lot.”

While it would be easy to get discouraged by comparisons between you and your sibling, both Pettigrews have made the best of it and used it to fuel their desire to get better. Emily uses the vast accomplishments of her older sister as encouragement to out-perform and statistically top her, something she says is just instinctual.

“I think about that,” Emily said. “I think that it’s natural to want to be better than her statistically. She has good stuff so it’s really hard sometimes, but we will see how it plays out in the end. She’s good competition, but I’m trying to beat her, I guess. She’s my older sister so I have always compared myself to her. We are there to support each other and we just just have to work through the competition and make the most of it.”

While Emily has set her sights on bettering her sister statistically over her career, Mary looks to pile on her very impressive career numbers. In Mary’s first three seasons playing varsity basketball, she totaled 395 points and 321 rebounds. She was also a 2012 All-Star and named to the 2013 All-League team. Through three games this year, Mary has 25 points and 11 rebounds and has captained her team to a 3-0 beginning.

While her career is just getting rolling, Emily has also accumulated impressive numbers. In her freshman year last season, she tallied 147 points and 94 rebounds: good for third among her teammates in scoring and second in rebounding. With the beginning to the 2013-14 campaign that she has had, surpassing her first year’s success is undoubtedly within reach. Through three games, Emily has 52 points and 22 rebounds. If this type of success continues for her heading forward, look out.

Despite trying to best each other in numbers, the Pettigrews know it’s all a matter of friendly, in-family competition. The sisters have even helped each other along the way as they do every teammate they have, bettering the overall success of the Clippers while improving their individual numbers in the process.

“I’m sure (Emily) would tell you I’m harder on her than the others, but I think I push her and motivate her just as much as I do my other teammates,” Mary said. “I have told her to always be confident. I don’t think she had much confidence in her freshman year, but I think she’s more confident now. Getting her hands up when she posts up is also something I helped her with, and now she does that great.”

Mary has also accepted and utilized advice given to her by her younger sister.

“Actually, she has taught me a lot,” Mary said. “She has taught me to be more humble, that not everything is about scoring and that you can help out the team in different ways.”

Sibling intuition has benefited the Clippers, who are 3-0 heading into the Institution for Savings tournament that Newburyport hosts. Mary and Emily seem to know where their sister is on the court at all times, a connection that typically takes years of playing together to form. This has allowed for various passing lanes and prime scoring chances.

“I find myself looking for her a lot more than I do my other teammates. We seem to pass to each other a lot. Before Emily was on the team, I had a lot of chemistry with Lily Donovan, whom I played basketball with since middle school. Now, I have that with my sister.”

Evidently, Mary and Emily have made the best out of a situation that would be difficult for many. The success they have had playing and being teammates with each other is something they credit to both the love of the game that they inherited from their parents and the ability to monitor the amount of basketball discussion that takes place.

“We talk about games after the game on the way home with our parents,” Mary said. “Our parents love basketball, come to every one of our games and talk to us about the game on the way.”

When the car ride home concludes, so too does the discussion.

“We leave it all on the court and when we get home, we don’t talk about games too much,” Emily said.

The two then postpone being teammates, solely being sisters until the next time they pick up a basketball.

What's on Tap? What: Tenth Annual Institution for Savings Girls Basketball Tournament When: Tomorrow -- Manchester Essex vs. Ipswich, 5 p.m.; Newburyport vs. Triton, 7 p.m. Saturday -- Consolation, 5 p.m.; Championship, 7 p.m. Where: Newburyport High School