Southwestern High School junior Ayden Smiddy and sophomore Payton Acey have been driven by their older siblings. The two Lady Warriors have stepped out of shadows of their family names and etched out a place of their own in Southwestern's championship season.
Ayden Smiddy, the younger sister of former Lady Warriors standout Alexa Smiddy, has proven herself as one of the team's best outside shooters and scorers. In the Mercer County championship game, Ayden Smiddy had the hot hand and scored 16 points.
"Early on, I made a couple of shots and I just wanted the ball in my hand, because I knew I was either going to score or they're going to come double me and I could just pass it off to someone else," Smiddy explained. "My older sister, Alexa, did that all the time. Either she was shooting or she was drawing people in and always looking for a teammate to pass it off to. I just try to do that too."
Also, Smiddy said she learned a lot about her hard work ethic from her older sister.
"Alexa has always been like the hardest worker on the floor," the younger Smiddy stated. "She's always brought energy and just done whatever she can to win. And she just instilled that into me."
"I just try to go out there and be like her, just work hard, do whatever I can for my team," Smiddy stated. "Whether that's scoring, assists, rebounds, or whatever I can do to win."
Payton Acey has quickly proved herself as the Lady Warriors' new post player. Acey had played the three-position for most of her career. But with the Lady Warriors' lack of a post presence this season, Acey proved she was just as effective down low.
Acey credited a lot of her physical play to her older brother, Dakota Acey, who was a standout player at Somerset High School. And while Dakota didn't produce massive scoring stats, he more than made up for it with his hard physical play.
"My brother never took it easy on me," Payton Acey laughed. "When we played against each other growing up, he always thought I was just like him. I would go up for a layup and he would block me. He never ever took it easy on me, and I think that helped me a lot in my game."
Both Acey and Smiddy enjoyed last year's regional championship win and playing on the famous Rupp Arena floor. But both players complained that the one-game stay in the state tourney was much too short, and they are hoping to extend their state-tourney stay this year.
"Obviously, we want to make it to the state championship game this year," Smiddy stated. "Win or lose, we want to leave it all out on the court in every game we play."
"I was on the team in 2019, but I didn't get to play," Smiddy said of Southwestern's 2019 state runner-up run. "It was so fun watching my sister and her teammates play all the way to the championship game. They were all sisters out there playing together, and our team is a lot like that this year. Our team motto is 'We are greater than Me'. We really believe in that, and I think we can do something special this year."
Payton Acey has worked on all parts of her game to be a more complete player, which includes shooting the three ball. Several times during crucial moments of the regional tournament, Acey would come out of her post position and sink a trey.
"I guess I've been working on my outside shot a lot the last couple of weeks and I feel like it's gotten better," Acey stated.
For the season, Ayden Smiddy leads the Lady Warriors with a 14.7 scoring average, and 78 made three-pointers. Meanwhile, Acey is averaging 12.5 points per game, has hit 21 three-pointers, and leads the team with 219 rebounds.
STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.