In one game last season, Jeremy Konst dove to save a ball bouncing out of bounds near midcourt. In one motion, he saved it and scooped it over his head without looking.
It was a perfect pass to his twin brother Justin, who cruised in for a layup.
When it comes to Williamsville East senior guards Justin and Jeremy Konst, figuring out which twin is which is only the start of the double takes.
"They just do things, and you wonder at times, how in the world can they do that?" said their coach, Dennis Belote.
Wait until one of them steals the ball and throws a blind pass to the other, who has already taken off on a fast break a split second before. Or watch the kickouts from one to the other for a nonchalant, NBA-range three-pointer. Or the backdoor passes. Or inbounds plays that seemingly always go twin-to-twin.
Then you find out they both happen to suffer broken bones last season, forcing them to miss the same six-game stretch. Or how they both passed the 1,000-point mark this year -- in the same game.
They're linked telepathically, right? When one burns a defender, can the other one feel it?
"There's nothing spooky about it," says Justin Konst. "It's just playing together all these years."
"Basically, it's the same person, but we're taking up two spots on the floor," Jeremy says. "We've just played for so long, and were taught the same way and we've been blessed with good coaches. That kind of carries into us both kind of playing the same style. That's what makes us, y'know, think the same."
Both were All-WNY fourth-team picks and led the Flames to the Section VI Class A title last season despite Justin missing 12 games due to a broken wrist and Jeremy sitting out seven games with a broken ankle. This season, they have the Flames ranked fifth among large schools at 14-3 and undefeated through nine ECIC II games.
I'll pass, you score
Ideally, Jeremy's role is point guard and Justin's is scorer, but they can pass those profiles back and forth like they zip the ball around the court.
"If it's an off-night, and Jeremy's feeling it," Justin said, "I'll be the one getting him the ball and trying to keep him from getting tired, covering their best player and doing all the things he does."
Although Justin (22 ppg this year; 24 ppg last year) has a higher career scoring average, it was Jeremy (20 ppg this year; 18 last year) who is ahead, 1,115-1,092, on the all-time list. The 23-point differential -- and having both surpass the 1,000-point mark in a 71-56 win over Sweet Home on Jan. 11 -- is due to last year's injuries as well as three more games Justin missed after breaking his wrist in his first game after being called up as a freshman. (Jeremy had 27 in that varsity debut on Feb. 12, 1998, including two late free throws that helped end a 21-game league win streak by Williamsville South).
They have both passed the school career mark set by 1997 grad Dave Wert (1,054), with Jeremy getting there first with a career-high 35 in a 76-67 win over St. Francis. Justin's career high was a school-record 43 last year at Sweet Home in his first game back from his wrist injury.
Basketball in their blood
Not surprisingly, this double team has some basketball bloodlines.
Father Dave played at St. Mary's of Lancaster and UB, while mother Lisa played at Pima Community College in Arizona and two years at Buffalo State that included a SUNYAC title. Lisa is the service director at the Depew-Lancaster Boys and Girls Club, where she is involved with the basketball program and even coached the Brunetto twins. Dave has been coaching since he was 18, including 15 years at Buffalo State before becoming a Williamsville East assistant two years ago.
"We've been playing since we were born," said Justin. "We were always hanging around Buffalo State. We didn't have a baby-sitter, we were with my dad all the time going to practices."
They honed their hoop skills in games in their driveway -- well, they used to. Brother vs. brother games have proven to be no-twin situations.
"It's always a good game until we get to 18 or 19 points, and the other one knows that they're about to lose, and you just get physical," Jeremy said. "Basically we'd never end any of those games. One gets beat up, the other catches up, then the other gets mad . . . then you go in the house and you don't talk to each other for a month."
The familiarity with each other has led to an amazing court relationship in a sport where eye contact can often be the key to two points.
"I know what he's thinking every time with his expressions," said Jeremy.
"Whenever they're not reading each other's minds, they get frustrated," said Dave Konst, who recalled a recent incident when Jeremy thought Justin was going to zig instead of zag. "Jeremy threw a pass out of bounds and Justin gave him the dirtiest look in the world, but on the way back downcourt they do this (gesture at each other) and they fix it."
Most of the time, their zig-zags are interpreted just fine. "They pull off some crazy pass or something once a day at practice, at least," said Flames senior center Kevin Roche. "You're just like 'Wow.' Now I just expect it."
"It tends to be very deflating, some of the plays they make against you," said Pioneer coach Mike Haskell.
Ask a local fan if they've seen the Konsts play, and they'll acknowledge they've got game. Then they'll search for the adjective about a certain aspect of their play. It's not "dirty," because they're not. They're like the guy on the playground who you love to have on your team but you hate to play against. The guy with the sharp elbows who knows all the tricks.
Let's just say that they frustrate opposing coaches and players so much it wouldn't be surprising to see the picture on the opposite page become a dartboard in some Western New York locker rooms.
How can a couple of 5-10, 165-pound kids who can't dunk get people so angry? How can brothers who couldn't be more cordial off the court turn cold-blooded and expressionless in the gym?
"We know we're not the tallest, we're not the quickest, we're not the most athletic -- so we just try what we call mind games," said a smiling Jeremy. "We try to get to people by doing the stupidest little things just to take people off their game. Then when they look at you they think about it."
Like what? Jeremy admitted he got one player off his game by waving to the player's girlfriend in the stands.
"We're not going to back down from anybody or be intimidated, so we have to go out there and try to set the tone. It's a lot of fun -- kids will think, 'Oh, you're small, you guys aren't going to do anything.' Then we go out there and we're pushing them around and trying to talk to them and everything."
After the Konsts helped end coach Pat Monti's career at LaSalle in the A-2 semifinals last year, thanks in part ot their suffocating defense on Dewitt Doss, the coach said this:
"They're junkyard players -- I mean they do the little things. They don't look fancy, they don't look athletic. They're a throwback to the old days of basketball. They're like 30-year-old men playing a kids' game and they just beat us in every aspect of the game. . . . I told my kids, appearances are deceiving."
Bengals in their blood, too
The only thing the twins have decided about next year is that wherever they go to college, they'll go together. Division I schools that prize their scholarships have shied away from doling out two of them, but many Division II and III schools are very interested.
It wouldn't be surprising to see the Konsts end up at Buffalo State, considering you can't throw a basketball in the East gym without hitting a Bengal.
Not only did mom play there and dad coach there, Belote played at Buffalo State with current Bengals coach Dick Bihr. Bihr's son Aaron is currently on East's varsity. West Seneca East grad Chuck Swierski, who was an all-SUNYAC player for Bihr and Dave Konst, is the Flames' JV coach. He coached Konsts for three seasons and was a playmate during the twins' "baby-sitting" sessions in Houston Gym.
"Every once in a while I see Mrs. Swierski, Chuck's mom, in the stands and I have flashbacks that we're at Buffalo State," said Dave Konst. "Especially when we have the playoffs at Buffalo State."
The Konsts plan to be back at the Buffalo State Sports Arena in a few weeks for the sectionals. With all the key members of that Class A title team back -- Roche, senior Mark Thompson and freshman Dan Milbrand up front and another three-point marksman, senior Kevin Coscia, joining the Konsts in the backcourt -- along with a drop in classification to the B-1 class, they're hoping to advance past the regional round in which they lost to Section V (Rochester-area) champ Wilson Magnet last year.
"We're trying to make it a step farther and make it to the final four," said Justin.
He said the same exact thing.
Seemingly same-brained siblings have popped up all over Western New York basketball courts this season. And these twins are no twinkies: All are starters for teams that either won championships last year or are on top of their leagues this season.
There are two prominent pairs in boys ECIC II alone: Justin and Jeremy Konst of Williamsville East and Adam and Sam Gioia of West Seneca West.
On the girls' side, seniors Allison and Lindsey Sudol are the starting backcourt for ECIC I co-leader Jamestown while Kristin and Joelle Brunetto are maintaining Depew's winning tradition in ECIC III.
There's even an up-and-coming pair at Orchard Park -- freshmen Ashley (starter) and Brittany Bonetto (key reserve) -- who excel so much in softball that they started as eighth-graders last spring.
"All that stuff you hear about twins is really true -- it's scary, it really is," said Leo Kaminsky, the Brunettos' coach at Depew and the Section VI girls basketball chairman. "Not just (the Brunettos) -- any twins I've seen. They can put the ball on the floor and find each other. And I'm not talking about dribbling. I'm talking about fumbling it into a crowd and having the ball find the other. It's scary."
Justin and Jeremy Konst
Williamsville East senior guards
Both returned from injury last season to help Flames to Section VI Class A title; three-year starters have East at 14-3 and ranked fifth among large schools.
2000 All-WNY fourth team
22 points per game, 5 steals pg
2000 All-WNY fourth team
20 ppg, 10 assists pg
"They can't play one-on-one anymore in the driveway. As soon as it gets down to the fifth game, one of them's laying in the driveway with a broken arm or a broken leg and the other one slams the door and goes upstairs. They're allowed to go to 2-2, but then it gets out of control."
-- father Dave Konst, Williamsville East assistant coach
Allison and Lindsey Sudol
Jamestown senior guards
Three-year starters since moving from Pennsylvania, helped Red Raiders to A-1 semifinals and 16-6 record last year and a share of the ECIC I lead this season. Best of friends, they're competitive in the classroom as well: Lindsey is the school's valedictorian, Allison is the salutatorian.
2000 All-WNY honorable mention
16 ppg, 9 rebounds pg
2000 All-ECIC I first team
9.5 ppg, 5 assists pg
"When they first arrived they played in our summer league -- (former coach) Pat Smeraldo and I just looked at each other and said 'Oh my goodness.'
"Lindsey is our point guard and defensive specialist, and Allison is our scorer. Both can shoot the three, they can both handle the ball, and both are the hardest workers I've ever seen.
"They're so much fun to watch because they always know where each other is going to be. A couple of times this year Allison threw passes to Lindsey and she didn't even look. The other night, Lindsey threw one behind her to Allison and never ever looked -- no one but Lindsey could have thrown that pass."
-- Jamestown coach Jeff Kresge
"The first time we played them we focused defensively on stopping the twins, and at timeouts, we really had to make sure who had No. 22 (Allison) and who had No. 13 (Lindsey). Even though they have different numbers, it's easy on transition to find two people on one and none on the other. They're both outstanding players."
-- Clarence coach Mark Layer
Adam and Sam Gioia
West Seneca West senior guards
Adam (5-foot-8) helped Indians' remarkable run to A-1 title last year while Sam (5-7) is the starting point guard this year after missing most of 1999-00 to injury.
2000 All-WNY honorable mention
23 ppg, last week had three straight games with at least five three-pointers
12 ppg, 6 assists per game
"They're both super-aggressive. They play with a real high energy level all the time. They're non-stop. The Konsts are pretty calculating -- these two are 110 percent all the time. They're just go-go-go.
"Defensively they just cause so many problems. If you get a rebound and you're not paying attention, they'll just take it out of your hand. Both are very strong for their size. And as quick as they are, if you get by one, the other just takes it away."
-- Pioneer coach Mike Haskell, who coaches against both the Gioias and the Konsts in ECIC II
"Sam definitely tends to look Adam's way, and Adam will shoot it from outside his ZIP code sometimes. They're as competitive as you get. They're both very temperamental kids -- they go all out when they're out there. Sometimes their emotion gets to be too much, but other times their intensity and emotion pulls us through."
-- West Seneca West coach Dan Chavanne
Joelle and Kristin Brunetto
Starters since their freshman year, they were part of two straight B-2 championships and helped Wildcats to 12-5 mark this season
2000 All-ECIC III second team
2000 All-ECIC III first team
"They're really quite different -- Kristin goes more for the 1 or 2 spot, while Joelle is a rebounder and a post player -- even though they're both 5-7.
"In the Festival of Lights Tournament, we started the season with Kristin scoring 30 and Joelle scoring 10 and beat Williamsville North. In the championship against Niagara Falls, they tried taking Kristin out of the game with a box-and-one. So I said, 'Joey, you want to take the point?' Even though she had never played the point, Kristin had her 16, but Joelle scored 26, we win the game and Joelle gets MVP of the tournament."
-- Depew coach Leo Kaminsky