Lake Highlands Junior High School freshmen Erin Aldrich and Celeste Rausch are about as different as night and day, both on and off the basketball court. While Aldrich is admittedly shy, the robust Rausch describes herself as a fighter and intimidator.

Together, this unlikely duo has led the ninth-grade girls into contention for the district title.

What they both have in common is height and talent on the hardwood. At just a shade under six feet, the multi-talented Aldrich can easily grab the rim and dreams of the day when she can dunk. Most girls at the high-school level would love to be able to jump that high. Her long arms, speed, and natural ability have impressed basketball coach Deanna Roberts.

“Erin is a phenomenal athlete,” says Roberts. “She’s the best natural athlete that I’ve ever seen at this school, boy or girl.”

Lofty praise indeed, but a closer look gives validity to Robert’s claim. Aldrich is a non-stop athletic machine.

“I really never feel tired on the court,” Aldrich says.

The 15-year-old brunette was a star volleyball player earlier in the school year, runs track, where she specializes in the 400-meter and the high jump, and is working hard on her tennis game as well. Next on her list of sports to master is the mind-bending game of golf.

At present, Aldrich is putting up roundball numbers that are hard to ignore. She is averaging 15 points, 12 rebounds, and three steals per game.

Lake Highlands High School girls’ basketball coach Kim Kromdyk already is dreaming of next year when her super sophomore sensations should include Aldrich, Rausch, and Forest Meadows’ Jana Podrahsky.

At some point in the future, Aldrich may have to pick her favorite sport and run with it, but for now her goal is to keep Lake Highlands Junior High undefeated (5-0 entering a key battle with undefeated Richardson) in district play.

“I’ve always loved sports,” Aldrich says. “I really don’t know which one I like best. Tennis is the most challenging, but I like them all.”

Rausch and Aldrich are a serious study in contrasts. Where Aldrich gets most of her points on fast breaks, her teammate is an inside banker who likes the contact in the low post. She’s about as shy as Joan Rivers and doesn’t mind expressing her opinion on the court.

“Celeste is our floor leader, without a doubt,” says Roberts with a smile. “She runs the show for us.”

“I’ve never had a girl before who takes charge and is so respected. She can yell at her own players during a game and they don’t seem to mind.”

Her bark is meaner than her bite, though, much like her favorite NBA player, Charles Barkley.

“He’ll push and shove and jaw a little, and then he’ll back it up,” she says. “Shaquille (O’Neal, or the Orlando Magic) is pretty tough, too. I can’t wait for those two to play each other. It’ll be like a Godzilla movie.”

Get the two girls together off the court and the teasing and laughter begin immediately as one might expect from two 15-year-olds. Rausch playfully calls Aldrich “Manute Bol” for her wiry build, and the next minute she pokes fun at herself for her own size-11 (women’s) shoes. “Try shoe shopping for size-11s,” Rausch says. “It’s not easy.”

Even though she may not be the sky queen of the school, Rausch still delivers in a big-time way. She averages 15 points a game, along with 14 rebounds. At almost 5-feet, 10-inches, she has a soft shooting touch in the paint and thrives on rejecting weak shots from the opposition.

Rausch transferred this year from Zion Lutheran and the impact on her team is substantial. For the first time since arriving at the school as seventh-graders, they mowed down Forest Meadow, 47-31, and are now aiming for loftier goals.

So what if Aldrich admires country music, George Strait, and Kevin Costner, while Rausch relishes rap and the Fresh Prince? So what if Rausch likes corn, while Aldrich munches on pizza and nachos.

On the court, the two mesh like Lucy and Ethel, with results like Magic and Kareem.