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Close friends Anchor, Eyles point the way for TI girls hoops

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CLAYTON — Pete Pettit spent the offseason agonizing over how to replace four starters that accounted for more than 70 percent of his team’s points.

The Thousand Islands girls basketball coach could have spared himself the worry if he had taken a drive down South James Street in Cape Vincent.

There, he would have seen juniors Ashley Anchor and Kali Eyles shooting around in the driveway or playing pickup with their many respective siblings, preparing to take their turn in leading the Vikings.

“I knew I had athletes, I just didn’t know who was going to step up mentally and want to take charge of games this year, and it’s slowly coming that those two are starting to establish themselves,” Pettit said.

Thousand Islands, at 11-1 overall and 9-1 in the Frontier League, clinched its school-record sixth straight “C” Division championship with a victory over Beaver River Tuesday night.

Anchor and Eyles, who live just a few houses down from each other and carpool to games and practices, have been at the forefront.

Anchor — an athletic, slashing guard in her third varsity season — tops the team with 11.7 points per game.

Eyles — a varsity rookie post player whom Pettit described as “a bruiser” — is second in scoring with 9.8 ppg and grabs a team-high 7.9 rebounds pg.

They are also the top two scorers in the “C” Division.

“I think that offensively, everything has to be distributed throughout the team more this year,” Anchor said. “Everybody has kind of an important role.”

She added: “I think that we have a very strong defensive team. We have a lot of athletes and we all kind of came together and we knew we really had to step it up because we lost all those seniors from last year.”

TI’s four seniors from a season ago combined for 36 of the team’s 51 points-per-game average, and three of the four were multi-year starters. That included Kristin McGraw, a two-time Times All-North first- team honoree who scored more than 17 ppg in the 2011-12 and ‘12-13 seasons.

“I was actually afraid (entering the season) because I feel like a lot of people didn’t have confidence that we were going to be very good,” Anchor said. “But we’ve done way better than I was expecting and probably everyone else expected.”

Both juniors credited team defense as the biggest reason for the Vikings’ continued success. They are giving up just 28 ppg and scoring 46 ppg.

“We’re all proud of what we’ve done so far,” Eyles said. “We just have to stay confident in what we’re doing and stay focused.”

And, after what the Vikings hope is a deep run in the Section 3 Class C playoffs, Anchor and Eyles will resume their driveway rivalry on South James Street. Both players come from four-child families.

“During the summer we have games that we have with all of our siblings, because we both have pretty big families,” Anchor said.

Eyles said that Anchor was one of the first friends she made when her family moved to Cape Vincent about five years ago.

Anchor said she remembered going over to the Eyles house shortly after the family settled in and the two went to the park and played in the snow.

“I remember when she first moved here, I went over to her house and it was kind of different because I knew nothing about her,” Anchor said. “But I got to know her and definitely through basketball I’ve gotten to know her a lot better.”

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