Same name, different game

Alexis (24) and Sophia Head share a word during a break in the action during Oldham County’s 77-20 win over Atherton.

Oldham County twins share faith with teammates and in future plans

By John Herndon,

BUCKNER, Ky. — When you talk about girls’ basketball at Oldham County High School over the last few years, chances are you are going to talk about the Head twins, Alexis and Sophia.

Or is it Sophia and Alexis?

“We are always lumped together I feel like,” Alexis says with a big smile. “It’s funny that it’s almost like we are one person.”

That’s somewhat understandable since the seniors are often closely linked on the stat sheet. Through 20 games in the 2018-19 season, Sophia led the Lady Colonels in scoring at 12.8 points a game.

Sophia Head drives for a basket against Atherton. She is currently the third-leading scorer in Oldham County girls’ basketball history. (All photos by John Herndon)

Second on the list? Alexis at 10.8. It’s been that way throughout their basketball careers, but while lumped together, Alexis and Sophia are as different on the court as the color of their hair.

“Alexis has different strengths and different weaknesses than I do,” says Sophia, who is blonde. “We get confused all the time in rankings and things, but we try not to get caught up in that.”

Still, there is irony that Sophia became the third leading scorer in Oldham history during a game with Atherton on Jan. 19, yet Alexis,now 10th on that list, was ranked a bit better in The Cats’ Pause Basketball Yearbook.

“Last year, Sophia was on the All-Eighth Region Team at the end of the year, but I was on the All-Tournament Team,” Alexis smiles. “It’s just funny that we are never together but its always like one or the other.”

While they are twins — Sophia says she is older by about a minute — their games are far from the same. “They are not identical by any means,” says Oldham coach Chris Nethery. “That is the way they are on the court too. They complement each other well and do a good job of helping each other.

“They are totally opposite on the court. Alexis thrives on contact and takes it to the hole hard. Soph is more of a shooter.”

Alexis Head battles for a loose ball against Atherton.

What it means for Oldham is they are the leaders of a team that has designs on challenging for the school’s first Eighth Region title since 1994.

Oldham, 14-6 as of Jan. 21, advanced to the Eighth Region semifinals last season and showed it is a serious threat back on Dec. 11 when the Lady Colonels upset the region’s pre-season favorite Anderson County, 51-47. It was Anderson’s first home-court loss to a regional foe since 2012 and the first time Oldham had beaten the Lady Bearcats 2007, according to the KHSAA website.

Sophia scored 15 points to lead all scorers that night but it was Alexis who hit a pair of late free throws and made a big steal late to stop a late Anderson comeback.

That big win might have had an unintended consequence, though, as the Lady Colonels lost four of six from Dec. 27 through Jan. 15. “That got in our heads, I guess,” Sophia says of the win at Anderson. “We lost some games we should have won. We are not as consistent as we should be. When we see the names like Anderson and Simon (Kenton), we are saying, ‘OK, let’s play our best. Let’s play hard. But if we see the names of teams we should beat, like Mason County (a 59-55 loss in the Bourbon County Tournament on Dec. 27), we were like, ‘Oh, yeah, we beat Anderson County, so we are going to beat them.’”

The Head twins have learned about the game, themselves and life itself during their careers. They’ve had four coaches in five seasons but they’ve also seen the Oldham program grow as the Lady Colonels won a district title for the first time in four years last season. They want to do more in 2019.

“Our first goal is to win the district and get a good draw in the regional tournament,” Sophia says. “Then we want to win that and go to the state.”

Regardless of what has happened in their careers, Sophia and Alexis Head have been there for each other, even when they didn’t see eye-to-eye. Such was the case during a practice last year when they went at each other.

“I guess I started it,” Sophia laughs. “We had some kind of drill and Alexis, I don’t really remember what happened, but I think a ball went out of bounds. I called her out on something and threw the ball at her head. So we were there jawing at each other.”

Practice stopped for about two minutes as the sisters went at each other.

Alexis says Sophia’s account is “exactly what happened, but she said she threw the ball at me. What she didn’t say was I turned around and threw it back at her.”

And the coaching staff’s reaction? “They just laughed because they know that’s how we are,” Alexis grinned.

In reality, the twins are very close and have committed to play together collegiately at Kentucky Christian University. The basketball aspect of their college years was important but they say the spiritual life was just as big a factor.

“At Kentucky Christian, we will go to church three times a week and get the community of church that you won’t get at a lot of other places,” Sophia says. “We like having a relationship with other kids and other teammates who have a relationship with Christ and we can share that with them.”

Alexis adds, “We wanted to be in an environment where there were a lot of people like us who want their lives to be centered around Christ. We want to grow in our relationship with Jesus and that is what we saw there.”

Alexis Head greets the officiating crew before Oldham County’s win over Atherton.

Nethery says that is the witness he has seen in his only year of coaching the Head twins. “They are very open about (their faith),” he says. They gather the team together to pray before every game. Every single game, they always do that.”

Nethery then laughs. “If you look at Soph’s Twitter feed, it says something like ‘loves Jesus, basketball and Mexican food.’ They are great kids who live their faith. That is why Kentucky Christian makes a lot of sense for them.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story first posted on Jan. 22, 2019. Since that time, Sophia and Alexis Head have changed their college commitments to Asbury University. On Feb. 8, their mother, Donna Head, contacted with the news. Kentucky Christian University, to which the twins had committed, has joined the Appalachian Athletic Conference, with every other league member south or east of Grayson. “With Sophia’s illness, it wasn’t going to work,” Donna Head said in a message. Asbury basketball competes in the River States Conference, which has offices in Middletown, Ohio, and Cincinnati is roughly the hub of the conference, making medical travel more manageable. Donna Head noted that Asbury has the “same core beliefs and values as it is a Christian university.”)

The twins’ closeness grew when Sophia was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when she was in the eighth grade and lost 35 pounds, according to her mother, Donna Head. “Her doctors are at Cincinnati Children’s. She goes once a month here to get blood work and an IV infusion that keeps her going. She takes about 10 meds daily. Her meds decrease her immune system. She usually goes into the hospital at least once a year.”

Sophia Head (23) hams it up with teammate A Deja Brewer during player introductions before Oldham County’s game with Atherton. She has been recognized for her courage in battling a serious medical condition.

She was named to the Tom Leach All-Resilient Team and received the Courier-Journal Courage Award last spring in recognition of her battle against a condition that will require lifelong treatment.

It’s a condition that would get many down, but Nethery says, “This year, she has had, I think, four infusions, during the season. She will leave during the school day and she will be back that night. Soph has been an inspiration for me and my family. She battles that and she will never show you that she is sick at all. Her faith is a big part of that.”

And it affected her sister. “It’s been a good thing for me to see,” Alexis says. “I saw her get really sick and I saw how God impacted her. It was kind of cool to see His strength in that outside experience.”

Both Sophia and Alexis say they want to impact the world.

“I am probably going to major in education and be a teacher,” Sophia says. “Maybe be a coach, I don’t know. I want to change the world in some way and in my mind, being a teacher is the best way.”

Alexis adds, “I want to major in biology and then go on to medical school. Our mom is a nurse practitioner and it is something really cool to me. I would like to follow in her footsteps.”

The career paths might be different, just like they are, but the foundation will be the same.

“You live through Christ in everything you do,” Sophia says, “whether it’s playing basketball or in school. People get so caught up in other things, but you have to keep your thoughts in your faith.”

Sophia and Alexis Head of the Oldham County Lady Colonels.

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