Last summer, Krystal Edwards spent three months working with at-risk youth on Cape Cod as part of a program called Crossroads for Kids.
As profound of an experience as it was, the summer also showed the Madison Park senior that she could live apart from her twin sister, Amber, who also has shined on the hardwood for the Cardinals the last four seasons in both varsity volleyball and varsity basketball.
Krystal, who carries a 3.85 grade-point average and averages 21 points per game, will attend Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., in the fall on a Posse scholarship, and plans to play basketball there, as well.
Amber, who has a 3.55 GPA and averages 18 points per game, hopes to get an acceptance letter to Rochester Institute of Technology any day.
The upstate New York schools are only three hours apart, but that might as well be across the country for the chatty Roxbury teens, who bubble with enthusiasm and spend their free time watching basketball on TV and drawing up plays.
“The most difficult part will be the times that I’m down, it will be difficult to adapt to a whole new atmosphere,” Krystal said. “I’m going to look to my sister to lean on but she’s not going to always be there. I have to find friends and be able to communicate and have that companionship with somebody else. Not to replace her spot but just to lean on [someone else].”
Amber, who acknowledged that she can sometimes be jealous of her sister, took the summer away from Krystal much harder than her sister did.
“Basically her going to camp, it was kind of different,” said Amber, who is two minutes older. “I had a breakdown and I started crying but at the end of the day I started to really find myself and I kept myself together [even though] I’m not sociable like she is. She’s very sociable.”
The prospect of playing against each other in college, however, might be a consolation to help bridge the distance. Union College and Rochester Institute of Technology both play in the Liberty League, and the 18-year-olds are so competitive that they even argue about who is more responsible.
“I can’t wait for that day because I’m going to be like, ‘Krystal, what you got? Did you bring your game?’ ” Amber said.
Krystal added, “It’s going to be just straight on, one on one, man vs. man because I know how my sister plays. It’s going to be exciting just like when we were younger. We always played on different teams because we wanted to see who was better. Everyone is like, ‘Who's better?’ But we play different positions so you can’t really compare both of us together.”
Amber, a 5-foot-6-inch point guard who also plays shooting guard, and Krystal, a 5-6 shooting guard who also plays in the low post, learned how to play basketball by battling their two older brothers a decade ago in their backyard and at the park.
“We used to get dunked on all the time,” Amber said, “and we were like ‘You know what, this is enough, we have to get better,’ so we got better and that was our motivation.”
By middle school, the twins started coming into their own on the court. Initially, Krystal played for Edwards Middle School and Amber decided not to play for her school, Dearborn, so she could focus on academics. Eventually, Amber transferred to Edwards and the twins played together.
They both chose Madison Park because of its reputation for athletics, and quickly became a dynamic duo in volleyball and basketball. Krystal also plays softball and Amber runs outdoor track.
“I just give her the look and … she’ll just nod to me,” Amber said. “It’s like that intellectual silence. When she sees my face she’ll be like, ‘OK, I know what to do’ or I’ll just give her a signal and she’ll know what to do.”
They also hone their game by playing with an all-girls team at their local park against all- boys teams.
“When they see us they are like, ‘Oh, shoot,’ ” Amber said. “They call us the Dream Team, it’s really cool.”
The twins led the team on an improbable run to the city tournament last year but lost in the first round. The Cardinals also lost in the first round of the volleyball city tournament the last two years.
This year, they are 4-6 and looking to make a strong push to get back to the city tournament.
"The fact that we made it there was a miracle. They carry this team, they are the heart of this team,” Madison Park coach Carla Hands said. “We all work together but they are the primary ones that take care of us.
“[Getting back to the city tournament] would be phenomenal, that would be their dream come true.”
And losing the twins will be a bit of a nightmare for Hands.
“It will be tough to lose them,” she said. “I haven’t run into others like them. They are phenomenal athletes, phenomenal kids in the classroom, and phenomenal people. There’s nothing you can say bad about these kids. They work hard in every aspect of their lives and I’m so proud of them.”
Being separated next fall will also be difficult for the twins, who say they will talk plenty via text message and Skype, but only after they finish their homework, of course.
“I see her all the time and its like, ‘Hey, Krystal,’ we talk a lot, we communicate a lot,” Amber said. “She’s like my best friend, partner in crime, we stick together, work hard together.
“So when I go to college it’s going to be very different.”
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- Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
- Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.