When Karin Leary’s three daughters were young, she used to flip through the pages of Newsday’s sports section, taking note of matching last names and siblings who were competing together at the high school level. She’d tell the girls, all of whom grew up playing basketball, “One day, this will be you.”
She was right.
Not only are the Leary sisters — junior Erin, sophomore Amanda and eighth-grader Caitlin — still playing basketball, they’re all starters for Carle Place, leading the top-seeded Frogs to an undefeated Nassau Conference BC record (16-3 overall and 12-0 in BC) and, they hope, a third straight Long Island Class B championship.
“We always knew it was inevitable,” said Erin, one of the top 10 scorers in Nassau (based on scores reported to Newsday), averaging 18.8 points per game. “Not many people have that opportunity to play with their sisters and we have a chemistry like no other people do. We’ve been playing together for so long, we practice together, and we work off each other.”
Their success on the court is no surprise — it’s a family tradition.
Karin Leary coached varsity basketball for nearly 20 years, winning 209 games and six county championships at East Rockaway before retiring at the end of the 2018-19 season. A Baldwin grad, she was the first Bruins player, male or female, to score 1,000 points in the program’s history and spent her college career at Iona.
Karin Leary said it was difficult to walk away from the sidelines, but the opportunity to watch her daughters play together is one she wouldn’t miss.
“For me, obviously I knew it was the right decision to stop coaching,” she said. “How can you not watch your children play? Especially with them all on the same team. It’s unreal and awesome.”
There’s been plenty to watch from the Leary sisters this season.
While Erin leads the charge offensively, Amanda is averaging 13.4 points per game, and first-year starter Caitlin has settled into her new role on varsity. There are no pre-game rituals for the girls. No superstitions, no routines. Just a blinders-view on the final goal: another county title and a run at a state championship.
“It’s fun playing with them and, obviously, winning with them as well,” Amanda said. “We all see the court very well and we know basketball very well. We all connect in that way.”
Caitlin echoed the feeling, adding: “We know we’re capable of playing and being the best we can be.”
Familiar as they are with the game and packing their stat line, Carle Place coach Conor Reardon also lauded the trio for their leadership, saying it’s “like having three coaches on the court.”
“Sometimes you almost see them coaching each other,” Reardon added. “They’re out there having fun with each other, playing the game they love. I think it was instilled in them at an early age to play basketball, but I think they really took it on and loved it.”
Of course, there’s also a little friendly rivalry between the sisters.
It doesn’t happen during games, but rather at home when the trio take to the backyard court, fine-tuning their mutual and collective competitive streaks with everything from drills to games of knockout.
“It’s like a whole camp thing we’ve got going on,” Erin said. “None of us want to lose because then it’s just embarrassing.”
Sometimes Karin and her husband Patrick, a three-sport athlete at Wheatley and former soccer player at Fairfield, will join in, as well as their youngest son, Ryan, 11. And while there can be some trash talk, Karin said it’s always in the interest of getting better.
“They’re competitive kids, so they always want to win, but they’re not looking to out-beat each other either,” Karin said. “They’re all unselfish players, they’re team players, and it’s amazing to watch.”
Erin joined her mom in the 1,000-point club during the Frogs’ 64-26 victory over Friends Academy on Jan. 27, becoming the third player in Carle Place history to reach the scoring mark, according to Reardon. Amanda said she’d also been counting down to the moment, as anxious for her sister’s success as Erin was.
“I knew when she got to six points [left],” Amanda said. “Then I kept track myself.”
When the ball went through the hoop, there were only two people Erin looked for, her sisters, both already rushing toward her. It’s a feeling they’re hoping to replicate in the postseason.
“I saw them … and they ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug,” Erin said. “It made me the happiest person to see that I was accomplishing this great thing with the people I love the most.”