Manitoba

Winnipeg twins play against each other for 1st time at university championship

Sunday's U Sports women's basketball title game saw twins, and longtime teammates, Kyanna and Kyia Giles pitted against one another on opposing squads: Kyia with the Ryerson University Rams and Kyanna with the University of Winnipeg Wesmen.

'We are more than just basketball players. We are great, strong, intelligent women': Kyanna Giles

Kyia Giles of the Ryerson University Rams smiles after putting up a shot over her twin sister Kyanna Giles during the U Sports women's basketball championship game Sunday. (James Paddle-Grant/Queen's Athletics)

Winnipeg twin sisters Kyia and Kyanna Giles have been victorious at every level of basketball and they've done it together — except at Sunday's national university title game.

The siblings took the floor in opposite colours, pitted against one another in the U Sports women's basketball title game: Kyia with the Ryerson University Rams and Kyanna with the University of Winnipeg Wesmen.

"It was kind of weird seeing me in white and her in blue," Kyanna said. "We played together all our life and the first time playing against each other in a national final is kind of crazy, but I wouldn't have it any other way."

Ryerson emerged victorious, using solid three-point shooting and stifling defence, to capture the program's first national championship, 70-48 in Kingston, Ont.

Kyanna tallied 13 points and three rebounds in 35 minutes on court, while Kyia registered six points and a pair of assists in 19 minutes of game action.

Kyia also admitted it was odd to see her twin not flanking her in the backcourt but instead defending her.

Kyia Giles of the Ryerson University Rams goes up for a shot after getting past her twin sister, University of Winnipeg Wesmen guard Kyanna Giles, during the U Sports women's basketball championship game Sunday in Kington, Ont. It marked the first time the twins had faced off against one another. (James Paddle-Grant/Queen's Athletics)

"It was something that I didn't expect to be as weird as it was until it actually happened," she said. "I was able to prepare myself, but actually being on the court it was weird."

The sisters were teammates at Sargent Park School before joining the Sisler Spartans and being key players in the high school, helping it capture back-to-back varsity girls' championships in 2015 and 2016. Sisler had a 104-1 record in the three seasons with the Giles twins on the floor.

The only loss the Giles girls had with Sisler came in the 2014 provincial final, losing to the Vincent Massey Trojans. Kyanna wasn't there for that game, instead attending a national team tryout.

Michael Tan, who coached the twins during their time with the Spartans, said he has kept in touch with them throughout their university careers.

Sisler Spartans varsity girls' basketball head coach Michael Tan has kept in touch with Kyanna and Kyia Giles since they graduated in 2016. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

"I've developed quite a relationship with them, and they're both like younger sisters to me," he said.

Although he's had several strong hoopsters during his 17 seasons coaching Spartans basketball, Tan says there hasn't been anyone quite like the Giles twins.

Though similar in so many ways, they possess qualities that make them different on the court.

"One gets a little more credit but the other one isn't as flashy as the other one," Tan said. "But they both play very key and important roles on their team."

Kyanna described her sister as a work horse, especially on the defensive end of the court.

Kyia Giles of the Ryerson University Rams dribbles around University of Winnipeg Wesmen guard Maltha Uwambajimana during the U Sports women's basketball championship game Sunday. (James Paddle-Grant/Queen's Athletics)

"Kyia's defence is amazing and [Sunday] she showed that along with her three-point shot," Kyanna said. "Her three-point shot has improved so much and you can see it throughout this week. I'm super super proud of her."

Kyia said her sister's court vision is tremendous.

"She's very aggressive, she sees the floor well and she finds her teammates. She's an all-around great player. I don't know anyone better than her."

Kyanna was named the national rookie of the year following the 2016-17 U Sports season when they both played for the University of Regina Cougars.

After three straight trips to nationals, including a bronze medal in March 2018, the sisters, both of whom suffered torn ACL injuries in 2018-19 post-season play, transferred to different schools.

Despite heading in opposite directions, they have not forgotten their roots.

University of Winnipeg's Kyanna Giles takes a shot over Ryerson University Rams defender Jama Bin-Edward during the U Sports women's basketball championship game Sunday. (Robin Kasem/Queen's Athletics)

"Growing up downtown [in Winnipeg] and just playing ball at the YMCA made us tough and resilient, and you can see that on the court," Kyanna said.

"We are more than just basketball players. We are great, strong, intelligent women and I am glad for the sport ... and being able to play this game."

Kyia attributes part of her success to Tan.

"Starting with Sargent Park and moving on to Sisler has been a big part of my development," she said. "I owe a lot to him and developing me into the player and the young lady that he did."

Their growth in basketball is a testament to the coaching they received at a young age, beginning with the Manitoba Magic club basketball program, Tan said, deflecting some of the accolades.

The Ryerson University Rams, including Winnipegger Kyia Giles, second from right in the middle row, pose with the U Sports women's basketball championship trophy and banner Sunday. (James Paddle-Grant/Queen's Athletics)

"Finding those grassroot coaches that spent the time to work and develop their fundamental skills, I don't think that they would have found that same sort of success if they had gone anywhere else," he said.

"That type of coaching really helped cultivate their knowledge of the game, their desire for the game and the culture they were surrounded by."

And while Kyanna wishes it had been her celebrating with the Bronze Baby trophy on Sunday, she's happy her sister capped her university career in style.

"She's going out with a bang her last year and I'm glad that she won," Kyanna said. "If it wasn't me, I'm 110 per cent happy that it was her, and we can embrace the moment together."

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