For many athletes, rivalries start in the backyard with their siblings. For Weber State junior Liz Graves and Southern Utah freshman Madelyn Eaton, that’s exactly where it started.
As the girls took the court Monday night at CenturyLink Arena in downtown Boise for their pregame warmups, their parents took a seat midcourt. It was the first round of the Big Sky Championshipsm, and both parents were not wearing red or purple.
“There’s a lot of interaction the day before the game and game day,” their father Alan Eaton said at halftime during Monday night’s game. “They put game plans together, they always bug me to death to critique their plans. They used to share their game plans with each other, but Liz was the first to say, ‘we can’t anymore.’”
Although Madelyn Eaton is just a freshman, this was the first season the two stars played at the college level after Graves transferred from BYU to Weber State and got married in 2018.
Southern Utah entered March 9th’s matchup having swept the Wildcats in the regular season.
“I don’t like when she scores on me,” Graves said. “She scored on me during the first two games, and it annoys me a lot; she makes some crazy shots.”
As Madelyn Eaton checked in for the first time Monday night, it was clear that the two would be guarding each other again.
“She has really good hands and it gets on my nerves,” Madelyn Eaton said.
Graves got past her sister during the first quarter to score six points, and the two wrestled on the floor for a jump ball.
“If they’re not guarding each other, then when each of them has the ball, I can honestly cheer for them,” Alan Eaton said. “We can yell and give them encouragement.”
However, both girls play a similar position, and when they are both on the court, they find themselves guarding each other.
“If they’re guarding each other, it’s painful,” Alan Eaton said. “We want them to be great on defense, yet want them to go score; it’s just painful.”
Alan and Aleisa Eaton did just that throughout the game. When the sisters were guarding each other, there was no cheering or pointers given.
But when the two weren’t guarding each other, each girl would look into the crowd as dad praised and coached them.
“For me, the first game was really painful,” Graves said. “It made my heart hurt. I was setting screens on her and blocking her.”
Madelyn Eaton added that Graves admitted after the game that she wanted to call it out.
Graves added that the second game was fun, and she treated her younger sister like an opponent instead of a family member.
“It’s hard when we guard each other because we both know each other’s tendencies,” Madelyn Eaton said. “It’s kind of frustrating ‘cause we both just shut each other down.”
As the clock continued to count down, Graves drove on her younger sister to try and tie the game with just seconds remaining.
Graves was called for the travel, and as both she and her sister fell to the floor, Graves’ head struck the wood flooring hard and when she went down. As her teammates helped her up, her sister was right there making sure her family was okay.